Italian flavours found favour but took effort
When Alberico D’Andrea arrived to Tokoroa 30 years ago, he never imagined how much his food would affect the community.
Italian-born D’Andrea and his wife Rachel are celebrating 30 years at Alberico’s.
What began as a dream in the Mannering St restaurant turned into an incredible journey of ups and downs.
In April 1984, Italian food was new to Tokoroa and the menu was not received as well as he hoped, D’Andrea said.
‘‘Those days most of the people like to eat steak well done, they have no idea about pasta, it took me about six months to convince people to eat pasta and it took me a year to convince them to eat garlic.’’
When the pair opened their dream restaurant, they observed a weak food culture.
In his thick accent, D’Andrea described the food as ‘‘osh posh’’.
‘‘They used to drink fluffy ducks which was a drink made out of advocaat and lemonade and they mainly liked to eat fish and chips,’’ he said.
Fish and chips may not have gone out of fashion but D’Andrea believes he was part of Tokoroa’s food culture evolution.
And despite the vast difference in culture, the couple fell in love with the Tokoroa community.
In their first few months as restaurant owners, the town was booming.
‘‘When I first arrived here there was almost 19,000 people,’’ he said.
Sadly, D’Andrea watched the population diminish following the mill redundancies.
‘‘The money that used to be there and spent in the town wasn’t there any more,’’ he said.
He saw Tokoroa businesses struggle, as well as his own.
But D’Andrea said he and his wife never gave up. ‘‘You just buckle down.’’ They pushed through the tough times, kept sharing their culture through food and yearned for a place of their own.
By 1998 the Logan St building was in their name and ready from transformation and it wasn’t long before the couple finally created something they were proud to call their own.
And what completes the recipe for the long-standing business is his love for food.
‘‘If you love cooking you love eating and if you love eating you love cooking.’’
INCREDIBLE JOURNEY: Alberico and Rachel D’Andrea celebrate the 30-year anniversary as restaurant owners.