Maui family-owned Espresso Mafia serves up coffee, community at new spot in Makawao
December 4, 2022, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated December 5, 10:44 AM
At one of the more popular local coffee spots Upcountry, it’s hard to say what customers like better: the drinks or the owners.
“The coffee is delicious, and the other thing I love about this place is the vibe. They’re so friendly and they’re really great people,” said Alfonso Segreti, who regularly drives from Kula to Makawao to get a decaf honey cream latte — even though he hasn’t had caffeine in four years.
Another repeat customer, Kaʻena Shimada, said Makawao needed a good coffee spot.
“And they’re just so welcoming,” she said. “They’re nice and easy to talk to.”
Espresso Mafia has been serving up coffee and community at its new location next to the old Kitada’s building on Baldwin Avenue. Owners Anthony and Megan Bianucci, along with their three kids, operate from a coffee truck at the closed historic restaurant they will occupy once renovations are complete.
The coffee spot employs Maui- and Italy-sourced products, with many organic ingredients, to create fresh, house-made drinks and food.
One favorite, the honey cream latte, combines local honey, house-made vanilla and Sicilian cinnamon. Another, the coconut cold brew, uses fresh coconut meat steeped in organic sugar and coffee beans grown in Kāʻanapali. The maple butterscotch sea salt latte, a seasonal drink, features butterscotch syrup made by the Bianuccis.
“We try to make everything from scratch and as organic as possible — then not charge $10.50 for a latte,” Anthony Bianucci said on Friday. “We would rather have people be able to come every day instead of just once a month.”
Born and raised on Kauaʻi, with Italian family tracing back to Sicily, Anthony Biannuci said coffee has always been a passion.
Plus, the two are no strangers to small business. Megan Biannuci owns and operates White Lotus Photography. The couple founded successful fitness gyms Lahaina CrossFit and The Block in West Maui. After selling those gyms and moving from Lahaina to Haʻikū, the family’s devotion to coffee remains.
“Coffee is something we have always loved. We’ve always worked out and drank coffee. So we did the working out and now we want to drink the coffee,” said Anthony Biannuci, laughing.
In October 2020, the two started Espresso Mafia in a coffee truck a few lots mauka from their current location. The small business gained quick popularity, and lines stayed long throughout the day.
After hearing about an opportunity to occupy the Kitada’s building, the Biannucis sold their coffee truck. The building needed an unexpected upgrade, though, and the family was stuck without a storefront.
Megan Biannuci said she’s never seen customers and friends come together so fast. People rallied on a weekend to build the family another coffee truck.
“Someone came over to do the plumbing; someone came over to do the build; someone came over to do electrical,” she said. “They just charged us for materials, and we gave them coffee and food. There was no way we could have done that without community support.”
Espresso Mafia reopened at the end of August at its current site.
“Since we’ve been open, we can’t even keep up,” Megan Biannuci said.
Looking ahead, the two get excited about moving into the building, hopefully by next year, and launching a wine bar. Eventually, the Biannucis want to feature Maui musicians and local chefs. They’re also mulling ideas for an Italian ice cream truck with specialty desserts.
When asked the secret ingredient behind their tight-knit community and tasty coffee, the Biannucis kept it simple.
“I honestly think we just try to be nice to everybody,” Anthony Biannuci said.
“If anyone is grumpy, it’s because they haven’t had their coffee yet,” Megan Biannuci added.
Espresso Mafia is located at 3617 Baldwin Ave., Makawao. Schedule varies. For information, visit the company website or Instagram page @espressomafiamaui.