Community love pours into Zweet Cafe


Zweet Cafe on Eagle Rock Boulevard has been open since October 2015, and was started so that neighbors in Eagle Rock and students from Occidental would have a place to study and hang out, co-owner Annalissa (Lissa) Alietti said. Nasser Trad and Kacey Sourakli are the other owners, according to Alietti. The inside of the shop has an eclectic and low-key style.

“Students can stroll on down after class, study, hang out,” Alietti said. “We have the Wi-Fi, we have the coffee; all of those make for college life.”

According to Alietti, everyone who comes to Zweet should feel like they can stay all day, and that the shop is their home. Before Zweet Cafe opened, there were no nearby businesses for students to convene, she said.

“We love our community; we love Oxy. We have so much support from students and faculty — it’s amazing,” Alietti said. “Being a small business is hard.”

When Zweet first opened she said she did not intend to become one of the co-business owners. After working in healthcare finance for 13 years and then retiring, Alietti said she was not sure what she was going to do next in life. According to Alietti, one morning she walked past a sign that said, “We are hiring,” in the window of Zweet Cafe before it opened, and decided to reach out to the owners for the position of dishwasher.

“I submitted my resume, and I knew it was going to be like — how are you applying for this?” Alietti said. “I was just bugging the manager at the time, I bugged her and bugged her, and finally she was like, ‘Oh sweetheart, just come in and let’s sit down and talk.'”

Alietti said after being hired to work as a dishwasher for Zweet, only a few hours after opening on the first day, the owner told her to come and help prepare food and drinks.

“Finally, I heard Kacey say, Where is Annalissa?,’ and I’m trying to get as small as possible over there, hiding in the kitchen, and I turn around, and he’s like, ‘come up here,’” Alietti said. “I put the milk in the coffee creamer, and it shot up all over him, all over my face, all over my hair.”

After the first day of struggling to work in the kitchen at Zweet, Alietti said she was ready to quit. According to Alietti, the owner at the time did not let her, and encouraged her to keep trying the job.

“It was so overwhelming because I’m going from finance reports to steaming milk, which, it sounds crazy, but it’s hard. It’s not easy,” Alietti said. “At the beginning you get it all over your face, your shirt, all over your hair, everything, and it was just something about how [Sourakli] said, ‘I believe in you.'”

According to Ally Fukada (junior), who works at Zweet, the homey and welcoming vibe of the cafe is what drew her to apply to work there.

“Especially in LA, I think sometimes coffee shops can feel very slick and very sleek, which is great, but sometimes that’s just not the vibe that you want to go for,” Fukada said. “This is like very much a granola, earthy vibe that I really enjoy.”

Throughout the week there are customers who come into Zweet who are regulars, and who have formed connections with the people who work there, Fukada said. Getting to know people on a first name basis is part of the fun of the job.

“It’s nothing extravagant, nothing excessive, it’s just seeing people and asking about their day and genuinely meaning it, rather than just passing the day on with no care, and I love that kind of interaction,” Fukada said. “It’s so great to have those small moments of feeling like a community.”

Miry Whitehill has been a customer of Zweet Cafe since its opening, and she said she was immediately struck by the family vibe there. Whitehill is the founder and CEO of Miry’s List, an organization that connects refugee families to donors.

“I make my own coffee at home, and then I find myself putting my laptop in my car and going to Zweet anyway because I want to be there,” Whitehill said. “I want to be surrounded by this embodied environment.”

Contact Olivia Correia at

Correction March 22 at 3:40 p.m.: Updated to reflect the correct spelling of Annalissa Alietti’s last name.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here