Growing up, I lived in a tiny, one floor apartment in the upstairs of my grandparents’ house. I come from an Italian American family of five. My dad (Papa Fronk), my mom (Mama Ria), my eldest sister Stefanie (TT), Danielle (D-Ballz), and me (Shelly) have always been very close. I even shared a room with both my older sisters until we moved into our current house around the corner.

I am blessed to have a stay at home mom who is able to cook dinner for us every night, allowing us to eat as a family most days. But with age and more hectic schedules of college, work, and maintaining a social life, it has become harder for everyone to gather around the table at the same time each night to have a meal — even though we live under the same roof. But one thing we can always look forward to is a fresh cup of after-dinner coffee around 8pm.

Michelle LoPinto

Over time, we have grown and shared many traditions: cake and coffee with the family for every birthday, trips to Fire Island to walk through the sunken forest, playing ‘summer snowball’ with bunched up white socks, our glow stick lit dance parties to Earth Wind Fire, and Sunday pasta and meatball dinners, are just some that come to mind.

chocolate, milk
Michelle LoPinto

Yet it has become routine for me to come home from a day of classes to see Papa Fronk in his ‘duke’ chair with his feet up in the living room or playing some classic Billy Joel on the piano with a cup of coffee by his side. My mom is not far, usually sitting on the couch with my sisters, enjoying their late night cup of Joe.

Michelle LoPinto

This whole after dinner coffee tradition happened on its own. It is something my family has always done. When I was younger, I remember dipping my Stella D'oro cookies into my mom’s hazelnut-flavored coffee. Sometimes, I would just pour myself a cup to feel included without drinking it and use it to keep my hands warm. (Little did I know in the future I would be consuming up to three cups a day.)

Every night, my mom brews up 10 to 12 cups of coffee for my whole family. I know what some may be thinking — coffee that late? Do these people sleep? Well… no, but that’s because of personal issues (damn deviated septum). It's half decaf, half caffeinated, so don't worry — at least that is what I am told.

coffee, beer, tea
Michelle LoPinto

It may be rare nowadays, but my family truly enjoys one another’s presence. After a long day, there is nothing better than changing into PJs, grabbing a cup of hazelnut coffee, and being surrounded by good company. 

Even though many millennials may feel that hanging out or talking casually with their parents or siblings is the last thing they would ever want to do, it is what I look forward to most after a day of hard work. There are no other people in the world I would rather drink my after-dinner coffee with.

I know that not everybody has this privilege to come home to a family that loves and supports them no matter what, who they can speak openly with — and for that I am most grateful.

A lot of times at our after dinner coffee family gatherings, we have the addition of friends where we just unwind, talk, vent, laugh about life, and of course, drink coffee. Whether that's boyfriends or best friends, they always look forward to having coffee at my house.

Whenever anyone sets foot in my house, they are always offered coffee and a seat on the couch to converse with the whole wacky LoPinto bunch. My friends actually look forward to this as much as I do. My best friend, Kyra and my mom sometimes even have coffee without me.

Plus, you would be excited for this too if you saw the collection of coffee creamers in our refrigerator. Although you can always expect to see Hazelnut (it's an essential food group at this point — thanks mom), it's always accompanied by the latest and greatest interesting new flavors on the shelves.

On special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, or Sunday night dinners, espresso is brewed with the added touch of Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, or Sambuca, an anise-flavored liqueur, which often leads to dance parties where we break out our signature move “the Aunt DD.” I will spare you all the visual.

It is important for families to take the time to form traditions and bonds with one another even if it is something as mundane as after dinner coffee — something we can all enjoy and connect over after a day on the roller coaster of life.