“This social distancing, don’t get me wrong, it’s 100 per cent the right thing, but coming from a European background, it’s hard! I’m a hugger! I want to sit back and have a drink with you all. I can’t wait for that to get all that back.”
Sitting across from co-owners Frank and Andre, I can see that Belluci’s in Woden will forge a way through to the other side of COVID-19.
Between them, Frank and Andre embody the spirit that will bring Canberra’s businesses through this impactful time. Frank’s years of experience, his passion and wisdom, together with Andre’s buoyant demeanour and how he continually seeks out the positives in a situation, is a staunch combination. They, along with fellow co-owner and head chef Zacc, will pull together and hold each other up.
As we chat, a constant stream of people are coming through their restaurant door. Delivery agents arriving to collect food; individuals picking up their orders.
“Our business has always come organically. It is based on genuine interaction and rapport. Clientele have always come for the interaction and the relationships that they have built with our staff, from the girls out the front to the chefs. They don’t just come for the food,” says Andre.
“It is a beautiful thing. Even with the restrictions, there has been overwhelming support for us. So many of our clientele are like family. They are locals and friends of ours.”
“And,” Frank adds, “sometimes, it’s the people you least expect. That’s what is so beautiful.”
Andre helps put the situation into perspective.
“It’s a global event and we need to be objective. We are in a lucky position. Essentially every single staff member has been around for years. We retain our staff, we don’t have staff turnover. We are like a big family. And hopefully, with the government’s help, we can help them through this time,” says Andre, referring to the government’s JobKeeper initiative.
“Andrew Barr has done an amazing job for Canberra!” Frank agrees. “And I think Canberra is going to bounce back quicker than anywhere else.”
My takeaway has come out.
“We are just want to let everyone know that we are still around. We are still providing the great food, it is just packaged differently.”
If you’re in the neighbourhood, make sure you keep these items top of mind. The olive and feta focaccia is a great opener. Served up like a mini pizza, this thin focaccia combines a pungent hit of olive with the salty tang of feta. Simple, true flavours that are so more-ish. Fresh chilli sits on top so you can remove it if you like.
Belluci’s Special Pizza has smoked shaved chicken breast, bacon, onion, avocado, caesar dressing. Tasty ingredients baked into a fabulous Italian dough, this pizza is sophisticated enough to impress the oldies and yummy enough to please every generation. My son, who usually only eats a cheeseless BBQ meat-lovers, just kept raving on about it.
Bianco Arancini (or mozzarella stuffed rice-balls in Napoli sauce). Bite through the crunchy shell into tender rice and feel the gooey mozzarella ooze out. Served in a rich Napoli sauce, a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese and fresh basil ensure the arancini is tasty.
Pork belly served with slaw. Succulent cubes of pork belly sit on a spread of apple puree, succulent and yummy. I am not a fan of slaw, but this one is not overly sweet and I eat the whole serving. The pork belly manages to still be tender after a reheat in the microwave the next day.
Spaghetti alla marinara with prawns, baby squid, mussels, vongole (baby clams), scallop in a saffron sauce. A complex dish, the saffron sauce is rich and tastes of the ocean, lightened with some lemon and chilli hits. It is generously packed with seafood.
Fettuccini alla carbonara is fettuccini with bacon, mushroom, garlic and cream. The sauce only just coats the tender pasta, not overwhelming the other ingredients. Delizioso! Comfort food made beautifully.
Gnocchi alla conatadina. I tasted it and then immediately referred to Google, because this is dish is intriguingly unique. Contadina means ‘peasant’ or ‘rustic’. Fried gnocchi cubes are tossed with asparagus, broccoli, spinach, parsley, danish fetta, walnuts, it is is a hearty meal, unlike any gnocchi dish I have ever tasted.
Belluci’s tiramisu. They had me at ladyfingers, zabaglione, mascarpone cheese and coffee. It is the perfect ending to a delightful meal.
Belluci’s is located at 4 Irving St, Phillip.
They are serving takeaway dinners seven nights a week, from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm, and takeaway lunches from Wednesday to Friday, from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm.
Order your lunch or dinner from Belluci’s on 6282 1700. Phone call orders and pickup are preferred as that means that 100 per cent of the profit goes directly to Belluci’s staff.
Otherwise, you can also order your meal via Menulog, Deliveroo or Ubereats.
Andre, Frank and Zacc look forward to serving you.