Alumni Profile: Jarrett Sabatini, Owner of Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails
(April 16, 2018) – Jarrett Sabatini opened Intermezzo Coffee just three months after graduating from USF St. Petersburg with a marketing degree. It was supposed to be a pop-up, open for just three months until a new tenant moved in. But the business did well. At the end of the three months, local developer and landlord Jonathan Daou invited the then 23-year-old to stay.
Fast forward 19 months, and Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails is thriving. Its bright interior, craft beverages and creative events pull in a steady stream of regular and new customers. And Sabatini is working on his next business—something he hopes will fill a gap in St. Petersburg’s current culinary offerings.
“I just like having the freedom of choice that owning your own business gives you,” Sabatini explained. “Every job I took, I always felt I wanted to do things my own way. Now, I can appreciate learning from the right people. But there’s a little bit of ego, like, well, I think I can do it better.”
Sabatini grew up in a restaurant family about an hour north of Orlando in Eustis. He started bussing tables when he was 10. It taught him people skills—how to build relationships, how to figure out what customers needed.
After graduating from high school in 2011, Sabatini enrolled in Santa Fe College in Gainesville, commuting back to Eustis each weekend to work as a waiter and bartender in his family’s restaurant. But he felt stagnant. Like he was doing the same things he did in high school when, really, he wanted to grow up faster. When he finished his associate’s degree in business administration, he was ready to move somewhere new. He considered Miami and Tampa before deciding on St. Petersburg. He had been coming to the city each year for the Festivals of Speed event started by his dad, Joe, in 2004. St. Petersburg seemed like a place full of opportunity, where he could grow as a person and make his mark; the same held true for USF St. Petersburg.
“My goal was to find people smarter than me,” he said of why he chose USFSP.
We recently sat down with Sabatini to learn more about how he works and what advice he has for current students.
You interned at the Dali Museum during your studies at USFSP. Why did you seek out that opportunity and what did you get out of it?
I kept my eye on USFSP’s internship listings, and when I saw the Dali was looking for someone, I thought, well, this will be interesting. Let’s see how this major St. Petersburg institution works. After I applied, I walked into Dean [Frank] Biafora’s office and introduced myself, just to try to make a connection that might help me. Working at the museum, I learned that when you pull back the curtain, it’s people just like you and me running the show. It’s easy to look at something big or something impressive and think, oh, the smartest people in the world are making these things happen. But, really, they’re people just like you and me.
How did you decide to launch a coffee shop?
When I started working with wine at what is now FarmTable Cucina, I figured I needed to know what I was talking about so I bought a couple of books and started reading. I got really into it, and ended up taking a sommelier course. While studying, sometimes late at night with coffee, I started thinking about the parallels between wine and coffee. So I bought a few books and dove right in. I’ve always loved café culture. I started envisioning a place with marble tables, maybe not the hippest place but the most authentic – like Caffé Vittoria in Boston. What’s the inspiration for the name Intermezzo?
When I was trying to come up with a name, I thought I could do something hip and trendy with an ampersand, or I could go the other way. When I go to coffee shops, I go to have a moment to hang out and recharge, it’s an intermission in one’s day, a break. I wanted this place to be inspired by Roman cafés from the 1950s.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned at USFSP?
I had some great classes in English, statistics, management and finance, but I think the biggest thing was really the discipline of going to class, fulfilling my responsibilities, getting into the habit and going through the motions of doing what I needed to do. I think sometimes people lock themselves into lanes. Like, I studied finance, I have to stay in that. I studied English, I have to be an editor. Today, more than ever, you cross disciplines, take lessons from all over. I love Walter Isaacson’s books, and one of the biggest things I take from them is that you have to learn from everything, draw on all of your experiences.
What advice do you have for current USFSP students?
Knock on doors, get out there. That’s huge. I can’t say I was any different from anyone else when I was 18, 19, 20. I definitely had no idea what I was doing, what my end goal was. I grew up in restaurants so I thought, okay, I’ll start there. I would say just do something. Get started. And find someone that’s smarter than you who you admire and is a good person, and try to get under their wing.
You mentioned the importance of calling people, reaching out for help.
That’s something I learned from my dad. Pick up the phone. Want to find something out? Call and ask. Build the habit of talking to people every day. Get out into the community, break out of your comfort zone. Make friends with strangers.
Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails, 1111 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL, 33705