Who is Melinda Kosteski: I am the co-owner of PRONTO by Trecento in Queanbeyan.
Best recent dining experience: My most recent dining experience was at Inka in the city, and they had recently introduced a new menu, so there were a lot of exciting new things to try.
Favourite cuisine: Definitely Japanese! I just love sashimi (raw seafood) and the combination of flavours used in the cuisine.
Food guilty pleasure: It might sound a bit random, but ever since I was a kid, I loved putting tomato sauce on my salt and vinegar chips … and to this day it’s still my go-to snack.
Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: I think the opening of Tiger Lane is something new and potentially big coming to the Canberra food and wine scene especially as it’ll be a new place to go and enjoy the Asian flavours, which I love.
My favourite place for lunch in the ACT: Probably Raku Dining as I love Japanese food.
My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: I’m not really a massive coffee drinker, but if I do have one, I love our coffee at work as we use the Genovese coffee blend which I really like, and I think there are only one or two people in all of Canberra who stocks that coffee.
Favourite coffee?: If I do decide to have a coffee, I love a good flat white in the morning when I get to work.
A must-try on our menu: You’ve got to try our house made ‘gnocci del terra’ – it’s our pan-fried, white truffle oil, lemon, burnt butter sauce with mushroom, pine nuts and rocket – it’s a big hit.
Our most-used ingredient at Pronto by Trecento : Probably our whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes – they are the base of all our sauces and used on all our pizzas.
Our most authentic dish: Our woodfired pizza for sure! We use a 300-year-old way of making our pizzas to keep them authentic, and we were the first business to open up as a Neapolitan-style pizza place in Canberra/Queanbeyan. My husband and brother-in-law had gone to Naples and completed a training course and got certified as pizza makers in Italy, and since that, we’ve incorporated everything they’ve learnt into our restaurant here.
Our top-pick from our desserts: It’s got to be our classic tiramisu, you can’t go wrong with it. The recipe is passed down from my mum and all our desserts that we serve are also house made by my mum.
Biggest culinary influence: I think I’d have to say both my nonna, and my mum. Ever since I was two years old, I was in the kitchen helping them wherever I could and just learning.
Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: Probably the Harrington brothers (Peter and Michael), they have Kokomos, Loquita and Akiba in the city. When we opened, they were always there for us and supported us and helped us learn how to run a business, and they love to bring new and exciting things to the Canberra food and wine scene and are just so passionate about what they do.
What’s the special of the week at Pronto: We don’t do anything consistently, but we love to use our woodfire oven as much as possible. Whether it’s a fish dish, our pizza or even our one-kilo smokey tomahawk, our woodfired meals are something to keep a look out for.
Where am I travelling to next: Next year I’ll be going to Europe with my husband Josh to go and see family, and to check out what they’re doing over there in terms of cooking.
Dream destination? I’d probably say Miami because my husband and I have always wanted to go there to see what the nightlife is like there, and to see if it’s anything like the movies.
Death row meal: Nothing beats my nonna’s homemade ricotta cannelloni, it’s just the best!
My food pet peeve: I’d probably say uncooked or raw tomatoes in a salad – I always have to pick them out. If they’re not cooked, or in a salsa of some sort, I won’t touch them.
My favourite vegetable: I’d have to say homegrown snow peas. My nonna picks them fresh from the garden and I love eating them straight.
Favourite cookbook: I can’t say I really use cookbooks, most of my recipes I use in my cooking are passed down family recipes.
COVID-19 response: We had opened our restaurant in the middle of the lockdowns in July 2021, so it was a really strange time to open a business, however we had received a lot of support.
The Queanbeyan community was particularly supportive towards us, as we had introduced our takeaway meals which were a great success. The pandemic really taught us the value of smaller communities coming together and supporting their local business, so we’re very grateful for that.
My top three recipe tips:
- Olive oil is a must
- Put salt and pepper on everything
- Garlic is the key to rich flavours in cooking
PRONTO by Trecento is open seven nights a week for dinner, from 5:30 to 9:30 pm, and five days a week for lunch, from Wednesday to Sunday, 12 to 2:30 pm. It is located at 11 Monaro St, Queanbeyan, NSW.