Love Your Local: Italian restaurant down (size) but not out (in progress)

Terra Mia owners Lucia Macedo and Alberto Calabrese have downsized their popular Italian restaurant in Arrowtown.

Debbie Jamieson / Stuff

Terra Mia owners Lucia Macedo and Alberto Calabrese have downsized their popular Italian restaurant in Arrowtown.

The owners of Terra Mia, Alberto Calabrese and Lucia Macedo, work according to the motto #nocompromise.

This has made it very difficult to continue operating their traditional Italian restaurant in the small tourist town of Arrowtown during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lucia said.

“Our standards are very high and that’s what hurts the most – having customers and not being able to give them the high standards of service that we’re used to,” she said.

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All around Aotearoa, bars, cafes and restaurants need you, so now is the time to love your local.

The restaurant which previously turned tables up to three times a night, serving 150 people, has lost most of its 15 employees, who have mostly returned to Italy.

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“It was just me and Lucia cooking and serving at the end, and we only had two employees,” Alberto said.

“No one had titles anymore. We were doing everything from cleaning toilets to serving people, cooking and washing up at the end of the night. So we are very grateful to our staff.

Calabrians say the residents of Arrowtown are

Debbie Jamieson / Stuff

Calabrians say the residents of Arrowtown are “simple, good-hearted people”.

They have been creative in adapting to the changes – reducing working days, hours and offers – and keeping their customers local.

“People are very down to earth in Arrowtown,” Lucia said.

“No matter how rich they are – because there’s a lot of money in Arrowtown – they’re simple, good-hearted people.”

With local support and long hours, the business continued to be a success, but the couple missed their daughters (one is in Italy and the other in Wellington) and had unfinished business in Italy where the parents d’Alberto have died during the pandemic.

“It just made us realize what’s important in life,” Lucia said.

“The compromise has become too high for us. Ourselves and the two girls [staff] we are at our limit. We therefore also owe it to them to get out of this situation.

The couple had sold the restaurant’s lease to Italian ‘concept’ store Seletti, but instead of leaving town they moved into their nearby take-out cafe.

“We love this community,” Lucia said.

Arrowtown was busy with visitors over the Easter weekend, and local businesses are hoping the support will continue.

Debbie Jamieson / Stuff

Arrowtown was busy with visitors over the Easter weekend, and local businesses are hoping the support will continue.

‘We don’t want to leave like this when it’s been so quiet and it’s so sad with everyone fighting for staff and businesses to have to close once or twice a week.

“We want to be here and see Arrowtown full of tourists again.”

The store continued to sell coffee, Italian sweets and baked goods as well as foods imported from Italy, but the couple would only be there during peak summer and winter seasons when they sold their popular pizza and pasta products.

They would also host private functions and Alberto would continue his online business by importing Italian wine.

While in Italy, they would finalize plans for the wine tours they had planned to start before Covid-19.

The restaurant’s doors closed on April 24 and they were preparing for a belated motorhome trip to New Zealand after seven years of living here and to visit family in Italy and Lucia’s home in Brazil .

“Our priority is to spend time with our family.”

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