AN ITALIAN LOVE STORY
Anyone who has been to Pasta & Cuore at 409 Mt Eden Rd knows the sensory pleasure born from watching chefs making homemade pasta at the window. What people don’t know is that this authentic Italian restaurant tells a love story that is like something lifted straight out of a novel. Meeting John and hearing about his journey to the Village, over a perfectly made cappuccino felt surreal. It’s a real-life tale of food, love and wine. What could be a better match.
Q. How long have you been in the Village?
A. We’ve been here for five years. I was previously in IT. It was a welcoming change. My partner Stefania has been in the restaurant trade for a long time and had her own restaurant in Italy. It was a family business and her mum and daughter also worked there. The restaurant was high up in the mountains in Bologna. In summer it’s stifling hot and people love to travel up into the mountains for some cool air and a weekend away. Her restaurant was one of the destinations people would go to.
Q. How did you meet?
A. At a restaurant in Bologna. She was working in what’s called an Enoteca, which is something we don’t have here. People come to try wines, taste them and then buy them. It’s a proper restaurant – you can sit at a table and order a wine and a meal and then you can buy a cask of the wine to take home. I used to go there every day for lunch. I was living there at the time and was winding up one part of my life. I had an invitation from a friend to come to Bologna. He had an idea for a motorcycle tourism business which I thought would be fun. I didn’t realistically think it was going to be a big success, but I wanted a change. It was a great time. That business never went anywhere. But I was there for 10 months (laughs).
Q. Romance blossomed at the local wine store. That sounds like something out of a book!
A. Yes, it’s true! It was lovely. Stefania showed me around Bologna, all the secrets. I don’t know if you know much about Bologna but it’s a very enclosed city. It’s famous for it’s covered porticos and very narrow streets. To discover the real Bologna you have to know what’s inside those courtyards and what’s surrounding the streets. That was 2010. We then had a remote romance for a while. I was in Holland working in IT, and then Miami. When I went to Miami I said ‘you should come with me’ and she did! The district where we were living has been gutted now. It had 85 art galleries in a district that was just 4 city blocks by 4 city blocks. It was a fantastic area, with cafes and bakeries. Being with Stefania in Miami, I learned a lot about the culinary world. She was a real talent. When our time there came to an end, we had to decide what we were going to do and where we were going to do it. We thought it would be lovely to open a restaurant in Italy. But an Italian restaurant in Italy is no big deal. It’s a very hard country to do business with their bureaucracy and tax regime. Stefania had been to New Zealand and we thought this was a good place.
Q. Are you originally from here?
A. Yes – it’s always strange coming home though. The longer you’ve been away, the stranger it is when you come back. You notice how quickly the city changes, Auckland has changed so much, so fast, it’s amazing. Mt Eden has a good feeling; it feels intact as a commercial centre. There aren’t many suburban commercial centres like this anymore left. We thought Mt Eden would have a good base of locals that would be interested in what we’re doing – people who have travelled and know a little bit about European cuisine, and are willing and able to spend a little more to get better quality.
Q. Do you work full time in the business?
A. I’m not here all of the time. I’ve got a great restaurant manager and head chef. If I’m here working, I’m working the bar. I leave the important work up to the experts.
Q. What do you do in your spare time?
A. Spare time is a rare commodity. Sunday’s the day I don’t get out of bed until midday [laughs]. Monday’s the only day I can come in to do maintenance. That’s my hobby, coming in here and repairing things [laughs]. My real hobby is woodworking. It’s a fight to try and clear my backlog so I have a day to do it.
Q. Any plans for the future?
A. n Enoteca would be really nice. But you also have to ask yourself ‘What do you want from life’. Running any business, if you’re serious, is more than a full-time job.
On the way out I spend most of my interview fee on mouth-watering pasta and the best chocolate pudding I have ever tasted. No regrets here.
Check out the menu here: www.pastaecuore.co.nz