Lanza’s Café Carrboro


By Laurie Paolicelli

Lanza’s is a warm place with a free gravel parking lot in back.

All the best places have a history, a story — a soul. Carrboro is like that. The spirit of the town is apparent in its people, its homes, and even its businesses; there’s a warmth, the implicit presence of something real. This is what you’ll find at Lanza’s Café: great coffee, pastries, sandwiches, beer and more. But you’ll also find a story.

Lanza’s embodies the free-spirited, ultra-comfortable hang-out that introverts love, where students can comfortably study and where professors and a somewhat statelier bunch can laugh over a game of chess while lounging like the kids they used to be.

Lanza’s is special, and so are the women who run it.

Christina Vad and Catherine Coley, owners of Lanza’s Café.

Christina Vad and Catherine Coley met in 2017. Christina hailed from upstate New York and worked in corporate people and culture and had a long history in restaurant work. She and her husband lived in the Triangle and helped take care of her dad, Guy Chairolanza, who had Parkinson’s and dementia with Lewy Body.

Catherine had a long history in real estate, administrative and hospitality work and loved caring for Guy, too. “When Christina’s dad was around, I would take him for long rides, stop in pubs and crack jokes. We were buddies.”

As the years passed, Catherine and Christina had dreams of starting their own company. They shared a compassion for the elderly, rooted in their love for Guy, and for providing cool and comfortable spaces for people to hang out.

In 2020, just as the duo were getting serious about opening a business, Guy Chiarolanza passed away. Call it fate or coincidence, but a café space in Carrboro became available at the very same time. Guy provided the inheritance that brought their dream to life, and Lanza’s was born.

Guy Louis Chiarolanza.

Guy was in the restaurant business himself. In 1977, after being a VP at Marine Midland Bank, he and his wife MaryEllen bought the Walsh Hotel, in Medina, New York, for 40 years providing his community with a place to come together. From the homemade pizzas he’d put out on the bar at Christmas to lending help to those in need, Guy was a man with a kind, patient heart and generous spirit.

Says his daughter, Christina: “Dad especially enjoyed a well-made Perfect Manhattan on the rocks, fly fishing, cooking, golf, a friendly game of poker, and sharing time with family and friends alike. He loved his red wine and Italian food, too! He had great wit and humor and even as his health failed he would never pass up a chance to crack a joke. He never gave up, always putting one foot in front of the other while trying to see the best in each day. Rarely did he complain and even when he did, he’d find a way to sprinkle some humor on top. This was not an easy task given the challenges he faced.”

Catherine Coley.

Catherine misses Guy too. “Guy taught me to never judge a book by its cover, to work hard and be honest and to help people whenever possible. In honor of him and through Lanza’s Cafe, as well as our newly founded non profit organization, Twin Hearts, we hope to support our communities through collaboration, conversation, love, healing and hope.”

As one ode to Guy, the two created a safe space where everyone is welcome. The type of place where children can display their art and where anyone, any age, can learn to play chess from a local master.

Solo or with a group, Lanza’s Café provides comfortable seating.

In the café that bears his name, Lanza’s prides itself on every pillow, piece of art, easy chair, and throw-back table the owners have created. People are drawn to its easy familiarity: the restaurant turned a profit in its very first year. The gravel parking lot out back is usually full. You’ll find customers of all ages on the front porch, in the main sitting room, in the garden area, and sometimes operating their own flea market out front. It’s unique, but Carrboro, Hillsborough, and Chapel Hill bring their own trademark vibes, all distinctive in their differences. Lanza’s is its own special edition of comfort, warmth, and an enduring familial love.

Carrboro’s own Rob Gellum.

Join a board game night at Lanza’s or drop in on Wednesday nights when Tobin Logan, a professional chess coach, instructs kids and adults of all ages to learn the magnificent game of chess! Check out the schedule to see when Lanza’s is featuring live music performing on stage, trivia night, and other wonderful, and wonderfully fun, events.

Lanza’s front porch attracts guests year-round, but especially in the cooler months.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This reporter can be reached at

Share This Article

Scroll down to make a comment.

Be the first to comment on "Lanza’s Café Carrboro"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.