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Monday February 28, 2011
Howan authentic Roman trattoria emerged in
the heart of Australia’s capital is the result of a
classic immigrant’s tale.
Born in Italy, down south in Calabria, Rosario
Trimboli headed to the antipodes during the mid-60s to
escape poverty in search of a better life.
In Australia he met his wife and started a family. His
son, Pasquale, says his father was just a teenager when he
left Italy, and recognises the courage required to leave his
“You’ve got to pay credit to all these immigrants,” he says.
“They came out here with hardly any skills at all and
started out just having a go. Food was something they all
knew, something they all lived and breathed.”
Back in the ‘70s however, it was tough to bring Italian
food to the table. Strict import laws prevented cured meats
such as prosciutto coming ashore. As a result, expats were
forced to cure the meats themselves.
In ‘74 Rosario opened a supermarket with his wife. Later
they joined his brother-in-law to set up a chain of delis and
introduce Italian-style meats to the region.
“They were the first to start selling the Italian product,”
“You couldn’t get all the meats, cheeses, olive oils and
balsamics back then, things that we take for granted today
– things that have almost been adopted by the Australian
culture. They were almost foreign.
“Now, with the Australian public being so well travelled,
they probably know the products better than most of the
Italians do these days.’’
In the ‘90s the families ventured into hospitality, opening
a cafe and then Mezzalira – a restaurant that became, and
remains, a leader in the territory’s dining landscape.
As Rosario stepped back, his sons, Dominic, Joe, Vince
and Pasquale moved the family business forward. The next
challenge was Italian and Sons – a dining experience that
would throw down the gauntlet to Canberra foodies.
It was a daring experiment for the territory’s bon vivants,
and a gamble that might not have worked out five years
earlier. But now, the time was right for something new.
Pasquale and his brothers had struck that delicate balance
between educating customers and making a dollar, and that
has been the difference between success and failure.
“Italian and Sons has been the best litmus test for how
adventurous the clientele has become in Canberra,’’
“I believe we’re only as good as our clientele. We can put
on all these weird and wonderful things that we think are
Italian and represent what Italian food is, but at the end
of the day if the customer is not willing to pay for it we are
going to be closing our doors.’’
Years before Italian and Sons, Pasquale recalls a period
when they couldn’t even sell a risotto – something that
is almost unthinkable today in such a cosmopolitan city.
“We had this chef that was over from Italy at the time and
putting up all these weird and wonderful things, but people
were reluctant to even look at a risotto,’’ he says.
“‘What’s this rice? We know stir fried rice and we know
boiled rice, but what is this risotto?’”
The trick has been building trust and faith in their
operations. That trust has allowed them, and their
customers, to take greater risks.
“Italian and Sons comes along and delivers a very, very small
menu but a very precise menu,’’ Pasquale says. “Every dish
has been thought out to the last garnish.’’
Time has been dedicated to producing an almost exclusively
Italian wine list to complement the dishes they offer.
“If you said to me years ago that there is a place that is
about to open up and it’s going to deliver an Italian wine
list, with no Aussie wines – and the reason we do that is
not because we want to make more money, it’s because we
want to deliver what the food should be accompanied with
– well I would have said to you, ‘There is no chance in hell
those guys are going to be in business in 12 months.’’
More than 18 months since it opened, Italian and Sons is
booming, and it continues to attract a clientele searching for
something out of the ordinary.
“It just takes one person to turn around and have a punt,’’
“I’m not going to do the regular Italian that everyone else
does. We’re going to do traditional Italian, but delivered
with conviction and honesty.’’
Canberra’s tastebuds have come a long way since Italian and Sons owner Rosario
Trimboli first arrived. BY MARK SAWA
Photo: Rohan Thomson
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