Bunbury-born chef Nino Zoccali thought he had found the ideal location for his new restaurant in Sydney. What he didn't count on was how people would react to his "perfect spot".
"People thought I was mad," the 43-year-old said.
What some found hard to swallow was the fact that the restaurant, Il Pendolino, would be on the second level of one of Sydney's most majestic buildings: the century-old Strand Arcade, which is perhaps known more for its fine fashion than food.
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"In Australia, unlike other parts of the world, people are not used to going up stairs and lifts to eat - people think it's a difficult task," said Zoccali, who decided to ignore the naysayers.
It was a risk that paid off because since it opened in 2008, Il Pendolino has proved popular with diners who do not mind the stair climb because they appreciate the flavour combinations of a signature dish such as Pappardelle with White Rocks Veal and Marjoram Ragu - from some of the country's most powerful people, to foodies.
Last year, The Strand Arcade welcomed Zoccali's second venue, La Rosa Bar & Pizza.
As a regular traveller to Europe, Zoccali was familiar with the reverence diners have not just for food but also for the ambience created by their historical surroundings.
"The architecture is the first reason we're here," he said of his decision to establish restaurants in The Strand.
"In Italy, half the enjoyment of doing things is you're eating in a building that's hundreds of years old."
The Strand also accommodates Zoccali's offices and a prep kitchen with a pasta section known as the "Laboratorio" - a type of kitchen lab that creates specialty pasta for Pendolino and La Rosa.
Zoccali is a pasta expert - he waxes lyrical about fresh and dry pasta; the beauty of each and the purpose they serve - so it is hardly surprising that he has published a cookbook dedicated to pasta, Pasta Artigiana.
Zoccali is in Perth - or, more precisely, at the Mundaring Truffle Festival - for the official launch of Pasta Artigiana, which is a stylish A-Z guide of everything you need to know about the basics of pasta dough right through to exquisite accompaniments such as chicken livers with mushrooms and truffle.
There are also pasta desserts - including a much-loved delicate treat that many Italo-Australians would associate with special occasions, Pignolata al Miele.
If you've never been to Pendolino then Pasta Artigiana will enable you to enjoy Zoccali's mouth-watering delicacies with sophisticated flavours from the comfort of your own home… which will also save you from having to climb the stairs to the restaurant.
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