Who are you?
Gianni Guglielmin. I’ve owned and operated Briscola Italian in the city for almost 14 years. Outside of that, I’m a family man and a dad of two kids.
What is your venue?
We’re a middle-of-the-range restaurant where we execute things with a bit of style and try to be professional and stylish in what we do. But ultimately, we’re an unpretentious, casual, very friendly business – which really speaks to Italian food culture.
How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?
Very typically of an Italian, you’re heavily influenced by your mum’s cooking when you’re growing up – and I’m no different in that regard. From an early age, I was always watching over her shoulder when she cooked.
The first things I remember learning were the basics, like seasoning and timing. I also spent time alongside my dad and uncles over barbecues or a pig on a spit.
I always had a natural calling to hospitality, but the start of my adult career was being an apprentice in the electronics field. I worked repairing mobile phones before I began a 10-year career in the public service in immigration. Through all that time, I’d maintained part-time work at different venues. I always wanted to open a cafe one day, but it turned out to be a restaurant.
What are the top menu items that really show what your venue can do?
I would have to say our pappardelle al ragu, which I honestly believe is one of the best bologneses I’ve had. Our process and the pasta shape make it stand out. Something a bit newer is our mortadella [Italian pork sausage] pizza, topped with fresh burrata. I’m by no means the creator of it, but its popularity is something I really love in the food scene.
What is your approach to food?
A phrase I use a lot is ‘simple is not easy’. There are many critical elements [in cooking] where doing it well is not necessarily easy and you have to get the basics right. A Margherita pizza is simple, but you have to have a great dough; you need a good, fresh mozzarella; the oven needs to be the right temperature.
What is your favourite meal to eat?
My wife is an amazing cook and is exceptional across different cuisines. Her roast chicken with all the trimmings is beautifully seasoned and is always tender and juicy. My mum’s homemade egg pappardelle pasta with a basic red sauce is also fantastic.
What is Canberra’s best-kept food secret?
A friend of mine has a few venues and recently acquired the Little Sutton Bakehouse – it’s a nice hidden gem in a rural setting close to Canberra. Most, if not all, the items are baked in-house, and you can have a good coffee there.
In terms of a good lunch spot, I will typically go to my neighbour at Blue Olive Cafe or Terra down the road [in No Name Lane]. I also like engaging in a burger once a week, and I really like Grease Monkey – a local favourite – and I like Akiba or Assembly if I want to catch up with friends.
For special occasions, I really like going with my wife to Pomegranate in Kingston.
Where are you travelling next?
I’d definitely like to go to Italy next year – it’s been just over 20 years since I’ve been. Mum’s from the Abruzzo region, which is sort of in central Italy, and Dad is from the Veneto region, which is right near Venice. It would be the first time for my wife and kids, so we’d see family I still have there and places like Venice, Rome and Florence – and definitely Sicily.
Outside of that, Greece – my wife is Greek – or anywhere else around Europe.
What was your best recent dining experience?
We went to Taki in the Tiger Lane precinct, which was really good. I went with family for a birthday and enjoyed the novelty of cooking some of the ingredients on the grill myself. It was something different and really cool to do on a special occasion.
An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?
I love the routine and ritual of an Italian stovetop coffee every morning. Outside of that, an espresso or a piccolo.
Briscola Italian is located at 60 Alinga Street in the Melbourne Building in Civic, and is open seven days. Lunch service is from 12 pm to 2 pm, Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner service is from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Monday to Thursday, and Sunday, or to 9 pm on Friday and Saturday.