In less than two weeks it is going to be a case of "buon appetito" at the refurbished Wakelin House in Greytown, where a new Italian wine bar, deli and restaurant is opening.
Rachel Priestley's La Pancetta, opening October 15, will run as both an Italian restaurant and offer casual dining where you can stop in for a glass of wine and buy goods from the deli.
With nearly 25 years' experience in the kitchen, Miss Priestley, who lives in Martinborough, had been looking for a space to open her own restaurant since returning from Europe four-and-a-half years ago.
"I have finally found that perfect place in Wairarapa at Wakelin House," she said.
Miss Priestley has developed the back courtyard, where she has planted a kitchen garden, into a space for alfresco Italian dining.
La Pancetta will open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11am to late, and on Sunday, 11am until late afternoon.
Cured meats, small plates, pastas, main courses, sides and desserts are on the menu, as well as wine and craft beers imported from Italy.
"There are so many good ingredients in Wairarapa. I cook using fresh and seasonal products and free-range whenever possible."
Meats sold through La Pancetta will be sourced from Longbush Free Range Pork in Carterton and Rannoch Meats in Greytown.
Miss Priestley said she would be using local produce and cheese would come from award-winning suppliers Kingsmeade and Eketahuna's Cwmglyn Farmhouse Cheese.
Wakelin House products will be sold for takeaway through the deli during opening hours.
Training as a chef in Wellington, Miss Priestley has since gained extensive experience opening and operating restaurants in New Zealand, Australia and Europe.
She was head chef after Peter Gordon at The Sugar Club, an iconic restaurant that first opened in 1986 on Vivian St in Wellington.
After that she moved to Paris to be personal chef to the New Zealand ambassador of France.
In Melbourne, she carried out various head chef roles and taught at three cooking training institutions.
She also taught at Wellington Polytech and studied marketing at Victoria University.
Miss Priestley said she had always had a love for Italian cuisine so when she received a call to open and run a wine bar in Italy it took her one second to accept the offer.
"It took me three months to pack up and get there and I was there for over 10 years."
She opened six restaurants for Italian clients, ran a truffle shop in Florence and opened an Italian restaurant in Vienna.
She went on to become director of gastronomy for 26-generation-old Antinori Wines, where she oversaw restaurants in Florence, Vienna, Moscow and Zurich that had an annual collective turnover of 20 million.
Running La Pancetta's front of house is Marcus Darley - a veteran of the Wellington hospitality scene with 30-years' experience.
He was involved in the creation of The White Swan Hotel in Greytown, then bought the dilapidated Tin Hut Hotel in Tauherenikau and transformed it into a popular family-friendly country pub.
Miss Priestley, who owns artisan charcuterie brand Prodigal Daughter, is offering two types of cooking classes, for corporate functions or bookings for six or more.
"It's team building and corporates love it," Miss Priestley said. "Food is about sharing and love."
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