Love lures ‘big-city boy’ to small town

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

‘‘I love this lit­tle town’’

A Cromwell busi­ness owner who brings the flavours of Italy to Cen­tral Otago never imag­ined he would set­tle in a small town, but he is here to stay.

Ar­mando Var­lotta, who runs the Ital­ian cafe-restau­rant, Ar­mando’s, in Cromwell’s his­toric precinct, was made a New Zealand cit­i­zen at a cer­e­mony in the Cen­tral Otago Dis­trict Coun­cil cham­bers on Fri­day.

He joined Ross Camp­bell, Theresa Faafoi, Stephen Holmes and Ju­dith Hore at the func­tion hosted by mayor Tony Lep­per, and St Ger­ard’s Pri­mary School pupils who sang the na­tional an­them with the new Ki­wis.

Var­lotta said he moved to Cromwell in 2009, hav­ing spent 15 years in Lon­don run­ning an agro­tourism busi­ness. The din­ing-style was pop­u­lar in Italy and in­volved open­ing a farm­house to the pub­lic and us­ing prod­ucts they grew them­selves.

‘‘The most im­por­tant thing for me be­ing in the coun­try is be­ing recog­nised as one of them. I want to be­long to a place. It has been a long time com­ing. It is def­i­nitely a big deal.

‘‘Italy is a beau­ti­ful coun­try if you go on hol­i­day but if you live there it is hard. For me, I might be Ital­ian, but I don’t fit in with the so­ci­ety.’’

He orig­i­nally in­tended to set­tle in Aus­tralia, but love brought him to Cen­tral Otago, New Zealand.

‘‘I was go­ing to move to Aus­tralia. I know peo­ple there and it was the eas­i­est op­tion for me, but be­cause I met Bob I de­cided to come to New Zealand.’’

Ini­tially, he never thought he would call a place like Cromwell home, but he has grown to ‘‘love this lit­tle town’’.

‘‘If it wasn’t for Bob, there was no way. If it was my first choice I would never have moved to Cromwell. I am a city boy. When I first came here, com­ing to a small town, I thought, ‘how am I go­ing to do this?’ It was very hard to start with. There are not many for­eign­ers liv­ing in a small town.’’

In 2011, dur­ing the re­ces­sion, he opened his busi­ness.

‘‘No-one wanted to open a busi­ness here then. This place was like a ghost town. It was a pretty tough cou­ple of years, but it is bet­ter now.

‘‘I love this lit­tle town. It is small com­pared with where I come from but it’s still quite unique, it is beau­ti­ful, the town is full of lovely, nice peo­ple. It is a re­gion full of food and wine, it is close to Wanaka and Queen­stown, the sum­mers here are beau­ti­ful, and even in the cold win­ter it is still stun­ning.’’

JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Ital­ian-born Ar­mando Var­lotta is cel­e­brat­ing his new Kiwi sta­tus.

Ar­mando Var­lotta

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