The Fiji Times » Italian cuisine – more than pizza and pasta

If you thought Italian cuisine was limited to pizza, pasta or lasagna, think again because Rudy’s Italian Trattoria & Grill will take you on a delicious journey that will show you that Italian cuisine is so much more than that.

Owned and operated by business partners and friends Rudolf Kunkel and Bruno Bettinazzi, Rudy’s Italian Trattoria & Grill is located in Namadi Heights and offers authentic Italian food and wine.

Born and raised in Germany, Mr. Kunkel studied in Germany to become a professional chef and has worked in different hotels and destinations around the world, the last 25 years as an executive chef.

“I first came to Fiji in 1988 and worked for four years with the then Regent of Fiji, now the Westin in Denarau. Before that, I worked in Switzerland, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. From Fiji I went to Singapore, Fiji, Tokyo, Beijing, Cairo, Fiji, Xian, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and then finally back to Fiji where I decided it was time to stop traveling and to stay behind.

Both Mr. Kunkel and Mr. Bettinazzi were at Shangri-La on Yanuca Island on the Coral Coast and when COVID-19 hit Fiji they decided it was a great opportunity to invest in an Italian restaurant.

“I had always wanted to open my own restaurant and COVID gave us the opportunity to do so. Bruno also wanted to stay in Fiji and he liked the idea of ​​our own restaurant and so we decided to find a place that we could turn into an Italian restaurant,” Kunkel said.

They found a place in Namadi Heights and decided to create a restaurant they always wanted. The duo started working on the restaurant in March 2021 and designed the restaurant together.

“It was a long process of renovation, design and we did everything by ourselves, like the interior decoration of the restaurant and the kitchen. We didn’t have a professional architect, so we decided which walls we were going to knock down , what our kitchen would look like, the bar and everything. It cost us about $500,000.

“We tried to involve as many local businesses as possible. A local company – Amira Furnishings Ltd – manufactured the furniture for our restaurant.

There are 20 staff members with casuals included. Both he and Mr. Bettinazzi are highly trained chefs, Mr. Kunkel said they have two catering graduates from the University of the South Pacific who have completed their internships with them and are now full-time staff.

“It’s not easy to find good reliable staff. We hire staff not so much based on their skills, but rather based on their attitude. Our preference is to welcome young people and train them ourselves. If they show a keen interest in learning and a good attitude, we put them where they prefer to be, whether it’s front or back, and train them accordingly. Most of our employees are young, and we have experienced employees who have undergone training in local institutions. »

Rudy’s Italian Trattoria & Grill officially opened on May 12, 2022 and since then its customer base has grown and continues to grow. Mr. Kunkel said feedback from their customers was very promising and they had many customers who had been to the restaurant more than a few times.

“Our philosophy is quality and consistency. Wherever you go, the quality of food, the quality of service must be excellent,” he said.

Mr Bettinazzi, a former Italian chef at Shangri-La, said he was surprised at how many people in Fiji knew about Italian cuisine. He said people from as far away as Nadi had come to the restaurant and enjoyed their favorite meal.

“Our customers come from all walks of life and from different countries. Many of them are from our neighborhood and are regulars.

Mr Bettinazzi said they believe in the quality and consistency of their food and explained that they make their own pasta, sauces, ice cream and some cheeses.

“For example, we make our own guanciale which is a dried pork cheek, one of the key ingredients in spaghetti carbonara. We import authentic Italian products from Italy such as the different types of cheeses, wines and cold cuts,” he said.

Although he said the cost of the products they buy in Italy continues to rise, they were willing to pay because they would not compromise the quality of their food.

“We also make our own cheese and I make Italian ice cream here using local ingredients. I have a machine here at the restaurant and we make our own ice cream. We buy fresh vegetables from the local market whenever we can.

The restaurant’s menus also cater to customers with different dietary requirements, such as vegans, vegetarians, and those who prefer non-vegetarian dishes. Mr. Kunkel said their menu includes authentic Italian dishes such as spaghetti cabonara, truffle ravioli, fish, chicken, lamb and beef dishes.

“As the name suggests – it’s pure authentic Italian food, however, for lunch we also have a bit of a twist – a little more international food with a bit of South East Asian, American and European cuisine.”

The restaurant staff are trained by Mr. Kunkel and Mr. Bettinazzi in terms of learning about the Italian ingredients used in the recipes, the different shapes and types of pasta, the difference between cheese and the history of wine. they serve.

Mr Bettinazzi said the process was long, but staff were eager to learn and kept learning. Taianui Smith is from Lautoka and works at the restaurant after completing his culinary studies at USP and says he has learned a lot since he started working.

“Some of the things and skills we learned here are new to us and it helped us improve our skills.” Smith said he always had a passion for cooking and was inspired by his parents who loved cooking and tried new recipes.

“It’s a good job. There are long hours but it pays well and all you need is to be passionate about the profession and love what you do,” he said. declared.

His colleague Caleb Wivou said it had been a good experience for him – learning how to make pasta, cheese and other ingredients – had been an eye opener for him. Originally from Nadi, Caleb says he has always had a passion for cooking.

“Cooking for me is a passion and I love cooking for people because food brings people together.”

He said learning the intricacies of cooking was so different from watching cooking videos on Youtube or cooking channels.

His advice to young people who were in the field or were considering a career in the culinary industry is to be open-minded and eager for knowledge.

The restaurant is open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., lunch is available from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can get your favorite coffee from 8 am with a freshly baked cornetti (croissant).

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