Much loved, local family restaurant, Volpino, was created by three Mornington Peninsula mates who had a united vision to create a Mediterranean-inspired destination that is more than just a place to eat.
‘The Volpino boys’, as they are warmly known, know their stuff when it comes to food and wine pairing and sharing. Brothers David and Simon have a love of food, and from a young age were trained in food handling (and appreciation) in their grandfather’s chocolate shop. Simon was a school teacher and a hobby farmer prior to moving to the Peninsula. He has reared rare-breed animals, producing salamis and prosciutto, and has worked in all facets of the restaurant world in the UK and Melbourne. David has been involved with several Peninsula venues over the past 10 years including The Rocks Mornington and Fork to Fork at Heronswood. He was also part owner of Ciao Bella Pizza. He has travelled extensively, spending lengthy periods in Northern Italy with his Italian partner, learning about the local cuisine from her family. Chef Nathan did much of his early training at famed eatery ‘Italy 1’ before his family decided on a sea change and headed down to the Peninsula. Nathan then worked with David at Ciao Bella where the two forged a close working relationship.
“I love food,” says David. “It’s what I’ve always been involved with really. And my partner is Italian and we have spent a lot of time there. Food is at the heart of the Italian culture, there is always a conversation about food – at breakfast you talk about lunch, at lunch you talk about dinner and at dinner you talk about the following morning’s breakfast.”
Says David, “When I sold out of Ciao Bella to my then partner, I had an exclusion contract of 20kms. Mt Martha is 22kms away so it was the perfect location. It’s a great Village in a beautiful location, and it’s a massive suburb with a growing population. We originally looked at the restaurant in South Beach but the timing wasn’t right, so we were really pleased when we found the ideal spot for Volpino, with a well-sized indoor restaurant and a good sized deck for outdoor dining.”
While the boys’ original vision has now become a reality, it was a struggle for the first 12 months. Explains David, “None of us live in the area so it took us a while to really understand Mt Martha. It does take a while to be accepted in a community, especially when there is a legacy from previous businesses from the same site. Five years on we have built up loyal clientele of locals and holiday makers too. Establishing good relationships with our customers is very important to us and for the family feel of the restaurant.”
The whole Volpino team has been well and truly adopted by the Mt Martha community. It has been so important for the restaurant’s owners and staff to communicate with their customers and to get to know them and what they like.
Located directly opposite the Mount Martha beach, Volpino is a great venue for an afternoon drink and pizza, a family gathering or a romantic dinner for two. Extensive outdoor seating, coupled with an exceptional hand-picked wine and beer list, ensure that seats become scarce particularly in the warmer months, so it helps to book a table.
“What we tried to create is a family restaurant offering delicious food with fresh ingredients,” continues David. “We wanted to create a place where people can pop by at any time of day. It takes an amazing amount of time for locals to become familiar with your opening hours. For the last three years we’ve been open every day from midday until late which has given our customers the opportunity to dine at a time that suits them, or just pop by for a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail or two, served up with some delicious snacks. We’re now on first name terms with much of our clientele, it’s so important in a local family restaurant.”
“We had planned to do a refurbishment from the time we created the business but we had to wait for the right moment. We started talking to Kate Walker of KWD about 12 months before we got started, so a lot went into the planning of the update. It takes a lot of organisation, planning time off for staff, letting customers know that we’d be closed for a few weeks and managing all the logistics involved. The result is amazing. Our regulars walk in and say ‘WOW’ – they love it. And over summer those customers who have holiday houses and haven’t been in since before the refurbishment will be amazed when they pop in.”
Says Kate of the redesign, “Working with David and the team to refurbish Volpino was an honour and a privilege. My children and I dine there every week, so we have a real bond with the restaurant. I understood exactly what they were trying to achieve with the design update. We created more of an Italian bistro feel to reflect the cuisine and introduced interest and drama with stunning brass handmade grilles and brass tubing for shelving. Encaustic concrete patterned tiles give the bar some whimsy and terrazzo floor tiles add a nod to the owner’s Italian heritage. Strong paint colours transition from day time to night time.”
Interestingly, Volpino does a series of wine nights each year which have proved to be really successful, and they now have the license to sell the rare wines that they present at these special evenings. Says David, “They are unique wines that are hard to find. Customers kept asking us to offer them for sale so they could take them home. And now we can finally provide this service for them.”
The next venture for the Volpino boys takes them to South Beach, Mt Martha. Explains David, “We’ve always had our eyes on the site where East Dining was, so when it became available we jumped at the chance to open a relaxed dining space that’s perfect for locals and for those enjoy a day at the beach. We’ll be open for breakfast and lunch serving casual meals to anyone who wants to pop in. You can come straight in from the beach with no dress regulations – thongs, singlets, barefoot – everyone’s welcome, sand and all. It will be a completely different offering to Volpino. It will essentially have a kiosk vibe, where people can pop in before or after the beach for a coffee, a salad, a coke or something stronger, at really great prices. We’d love to do fish and chips and burgers into the late afternoon so people can drink in the sunset. Customers can enjoy the end of the day with some delicious, well priced food and a cold beer or a glass of wine, and sink into the evening in total comfort in a relaxed environment. At this stage the food will be served takeaway style after 4pm, but guests can still use the facilities and have a cold drink until late in the day. We’ve got the right bones ready to go so we’ll be opening our doors by January 2nd, if not before.”
The ‘South Beach Project’ is opening soon!
2/42 Lochiel Avenue Mount Martha, Victoria, Australia
For more information on updating your home or business, contact the KWD team: www.katewalkerdesign.com.au
Images by Brent Lukey.