Almost 25 years old, La Rustica is making a move from the old Kingston to the new, planning to open on the foreshore by the end of the month. In its place, old Kingston is to get yet another new bar.
La Rustica is a family-run business, opened in 1990 by Dominic Celestino. In 2004, his niece's family, the Calliparis, bought the restaurant (but not the building, which is still owned by Celestino), and have run a traditional Italian eatery, with plenty of pizza and pasta, there since.
Manager Katrina Spadafora says they outgrew the old premises, and were keen to move on from Kingston, which was "getting a little bit old" and overdue for maintenance.
"It was time for the restaurant to move on. We just needed a big freshen up," she says.
"We're jumping out of our skin to get [to the new site] and we just can't wait to be back working and going for it."
The family-run business is owned by Tony (the pizza chef) and Maria Callipari, their daughter Katrina Spadafora and her husband Giuseppe Spadafora, who is chef, and her brother and his wife Peter and Bianca Callipari.
Peter Callipari says there's a good vibe at the new site, with plenty of foot traffic. "You feel good when you're down here," he says. "It's a nice outlook on the city, even on a Monday afternoon there's just heaps of people walking past us today, which is a dying trend at Kingston." Like his sister, he said Kingston was getting old. "That's why we left really, it was getting a bit old and no one wanted to do anything with the area."
They bought the building for the new La Rustica and have also spent more than $500,000 on the fitout which Katrina Spadafora says will have a rustic look, with stone and woodwork.
It will seat just over 100 people inside and 50 outside, slightly more than the old, and will have a bigger kitchen and room for a cake display, with a new pastry chef starting, Italian Canberran Fabio Morabito. The menu will stick with the current theme, but new dishes are planned. Weekend breakfast and lunch will also be added to the formula.
They had hope for a woodfired pizza oven, but Peter Callipari says they couldn't get approval since the site is on the ground floor of an apartment building.
La Rustica opens in the Aurora complex, already home to C Dine, Morks (which moved from Belconnen and is reviewed in this week's Food and Wine, February 12), a coffee shop run by Lonsdale Street Roasters called Remedy, and the Rum bar, with another bar on the way.
Celestino still owns the original La Rustica building and plans a wine bar.