Italian restaurant Trattoria alla Toscana has begun a new chapter in Dickens St. Owner Kim Saber chats to Mark Story.

Tell us a little history of the restaurant in the Bay.

We started the restaurant in 1996 in the building opposite the Municipal
Theatre on Tennyson St. After taking over the Old Flame restaurant we
changed the building to meet our needs as a Italian restaurant.
The first night was very bad due to limited English being spoken and no
Italian was understood by our staff.

We adapted and survived, importing our own products from Italy and growing
Italian herbs, etc.

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After 10 years we decided to sell the business and return to Italy however,
after a year we returned to Napier.

We could not trade as a restaurant due to trade restraint, so we decided to
open a cafe after discussion with our lawyer. We opened a cafe on Emerson
St called Cafe Rosso which won an award for people's choice best dish in
Hawke's Bay food awards (seafood fettuccine). However, when our trade
restraint passed we changed the cafe back into a restaurant and successfully
stayed in the premises for nearly 11 years. When our lease expired we
decided it was time to reinvent yet again, moving to our new site 93 Dickens
St. Affectionately nick named "TED" after all the streets we have had,
Trattoria alla Toscana in.

What's new to the restaurant?

We decided to casual down the dining environment and incorporate a modern industrial
vibe. Now we are a place where people can relax after work, have a drink and a nibble, where people can meet on a date in the lounge area or enjoy our
food. The main change is we wanted the restaurant to feel homely but modern.

Why is the Bay a great place to own and run a restaurant?

Things have really changed in the Bay over the last 20 plus years. The Bay
has become a tourist destination for great wine and food. With the ability to
meet and work with local producers, Hawke's Bay is developing a really great
vibe and the ability to run a restaurant here in is fabulous, not only do you
meet a lot of really lovely people every day in hospitality, you have the
opportunity of business growth.

Many think Italian food is restricted to pasta and pizza - why is this?

Italians love to eat, and the Americanisation of Italian foods has led to people
believing that it is only pasta and pizza. It's not.

In Italy food is about love, passion, excitement and simplicity, cerebrating the ingredients. Who has the best steak, the finest bread, freshest fish. In Italy you will drive for kilometres to ensure that you get what you need for the meal.

Every suburb/ village has its on dish which they celebrate. For example close
to where my husband comes from is a t-bone steak celebration, then just up
the road a truffle celebration.

The next village over is profiterole village where they make a small replica of
a different church every year entirely of profiteroles filled with custard and
held together by toffee, this is then paraded down the main street. Lit up in all
of its glory followed by young and old who know that when the parade stops
the party starts and everyone eats the profiteroles.

Italian food is regional, and local.

Who's your favourite international chef?

Anthony Bourdain. For him it wasn't just about food, it was about the passion for food, trying something new and making contact with the people who produced the food. Just like Italians, it was about bringing together people enjoying the company of others, chatting and having great discussions.