In our “A Drink with Jeff” series, Campbelltown Catholic Club community liaison Jeff McGill has been catching up with a diverse selection of club identities.

The tattoos, muscles and P!nk-style haircut are the first three things you notice about Sonia Ferraro.

It’s next the hundreds of facial expressions.

But, only as you begin to chat with Sonia Ferraro do you realise her truest trope comes from within: her heart of gold.

Sonia is the new supervisor of Café Blue at Aquafit, and everyone’s been buzzing about the ‘breath of fresh air’ that has arrived with her — not to mention her excellent coffee.

So, I decided to catch up with Sonia for my latest interview.

It was late on a Tuesday afternoon we were due to meet, just after the café closed, but Sonia was nowhere in sight. Mirela — one of the wonderful helpers at the gym’s front desk — came across and told me Sonia had to drop something at the Club and would be back very shortly. No problem. I hummed along to the 80’s songs playing in the background and watched as patrons finished their drinks and left. I chuckled as I remembered one Café Blue stalwart telling me: “I don’t drink coffee to wake up — I wake up to drink coffee.” That’s how seriously some people take their brew.

Sonia then arrived, beaming, her hand thrust out. That’s when those first impressions happened. The tatts, the muscles, the haircut. The facial expressions were also obvious as I took snaps of her at the café counter; a collage of at least three shots was needed to truly capture the whirlwind of exposition.

The heart of gold then emerged as she spoke about her customers, giving me the feeling she was talking about family. Amazing, given she’s only been at Café Blue since January.

Even more amazing if you consider she only joined the Catholic Club as a newbie last November! Picking up glasses in the lounge, waitressing in the Dove & Shears, clearing tables in Harvest Bistro… but now supervising Café Blue. I quickly did the maths — from newbie to supervisor in six weeks.

I wanted to know more, so we popped across the road to Rydges Hotel to grab a quiet corner to get our drinks and start our chat.

Sonia, off duty, started to list a few red wines to choose from.

Call me a detective, but her knowledge of wines and her Italian surname told me she was likely of Italian heritage.

“Yes,” she smiled. Born in Australia, but raised in Liverpool by immigrant parents before moving to Campbelltown in her teens. “I love having Ferraro as a surname.” She added. “It’s both fast and smooth, like a blend of the brands Ferrari and Ferrero Rocher.” Sonia’s quirky sense of humour was ever-present.

When I describe her as a newbie, I admit I am drawing a long bow. Sonia has been working in hospitality for quarter of a century as a cook, waitress, concierge and, most passionately, a coffee-maker. “I’m a qualified barista, that’s my forte, my strength. I love making coffee and the interaction with customers.” Sonia already knows what most of her regulars order.

“I had always told myself that by the age of 40 — and I’m turning 50 this year — that I’d like to run my own café.”

You look great for 50, I blurted out in interruption.

“Thank you, that’s nice to hear because I’m not really coping with the big five-o. But, anyway… age is just a number.

“I always had a vision of owning my own café, but then I came to the realisation that it would be better to work for someone else, at their expense, but treat a café like it was my own. So, when this opportunity came up to supervise Café Blue — and their exact words were they wanted someone to TAKE OWNERSHIP — well, that was everything I wanted.”

As you might expect, Sonia is loving it.

“I’ve never had a role of leadership, but The Catholic Club saw something in me… not that I mean to blow my own trumpet.”

I asked her about her past working life. “I originally wanted to be a police officer, but my very-traditional Italian mother didn’t approve. I applied for army, but a slight hearing disability stopped that from happening.” Sonia then tapped into a rich vein of experiences. “I was a sales rep, I was a life guard, I worked in retail, then I got a job as a concierge at Coogee’s Crown Plaza Hotel. That’s where I got a love for hospitality, engaging with people. She also spent several fast-paced years in a busy café at a Berry on the South Coast: “Good customers, unpleasant customers, upsets, challenges, life lessons.” But, the end of a personal relationship saw her move back to Campbelltown… where she found the love of her life — wife Jodie, who she married in 2021.

They met and fell in love while working together at Macquarie Links Golf Club. “Jodie is my rock, she is my everything. My soul mate, my best friend, my biggest supporter. I found her late in life, but never say never… I’m still pinching myself.”

Sonia and Jodie both worked together at Campbelltown RSL Club for many years until Sonia decided to try her luck at The Catho. “We worked well together, all very professional, but my switching to the Catholic Club was more about me wanting to go home to talk about something different. And, I’ve gotta say, I’m absolutely loving it here!” Sonia said The Catho is not only inclusive, but supportive. “They reward me, they see the good in me, and that makes me want to go over and above in response.”

You only have to look at how fit Sonia is to realise she is a sports nut: baseball, softball, cricket, soccer, indoor soccer, swimming, triathlons, swimming, cycling… you name it, she’ll have a go at it. “My motorbike is also freedom for me. An escape, my therapy. I get on that bike and everything I worry about disappears when I get on that open road.” What does she ride? “At moment, a Kawasaki Vulcan s650. I’ve also had a Suzuki and Harley-Davidson.”

Under that tough bikie exterior, of course, is a marshmallow. Sonia’s eyes go moist as she talks about her favourite customers at Aquafit, their stories, their struggles, their triumphs. “I see everyone as an individual, with no rights or wrongs, you are who you are.”

It is the respect and dignity Sonia displays in her words, beyond mere tokenism, that frames her outlook. She’s even happy to chat to customers wanting to know the significance of her various tattoos — whether it is the rainbow colours, the flowers and feathers, or the motorcycle themes.

“I’m growing here at The Catho,” she smiled. “Sometimes working in hospitality is frustrating, some days are really hard, but I always want to get up and come to work in the morning.”

Sonia raves about the support she gets from managers such as Maddie Small, Kristen Green and Peter Sheppard, who have all supported her efforts such as introducing her own scones and smoothies to the Café Blue menu — “and they’re selling like hotcakes.” But coffee remains her true skill, and she knows the best advertisement is word of mouth.

“I had the experience,” she mused, “but the Catholic Club has given me the confidence I needed. I’ve found my happy place… and, as I turn 50 years old, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my working and personal life.”
Hospitality, I realise, is not what Sonia Ferraro does, it is what she is. So, do yourself and favour and drop in to try one of her brews at Café Blue — where perhaps the most potent magic lies not in the contents of a cup, but the smile and spirit that comes with it.


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A Drink with Jeff | Jorja Cummings