250 Grammi’s Lessons From The Past
Imagine the joy at discovering a place where Italian tradition and authenticity form the foundations of a dining experience. John Caruso discovers his new happy place, 250 Grammi.
My most treasured memories when it comes to my Italian upbringing, are those created around the dinner table. Some were large gatherings with uncles, aunts and cousins, however, most memories were simply from Sunday lunch with a bowl of homemade pasta and my mum’s ox tail ragu dominating the centre of the table.
“My favourite dish growing up was lasagne al piatto which isn’t a traditional lasagne, it was a square of homemade pasta with wild pig from the bush, in Italian we say cinghiale, together with mushrooms and Napoli sauce,” he recalls.
Originally from Rome, Danny moved north to near Parma where he worked in hospitality.
“My mother opened and operated three restaurants and my passion for food and cooking was 100% from her. She’s the one who inspired me,” he said.
“Mum was a fantastic chef who educated and disciplined me in hospitality. Along with my Nonna, on my father’s side, they both were well known for the authenticity of their food,” Danny says.
Discipline in the kitchen for Danny is all about consistency, procedures, sequences, investing hours into experimentation and making things perfect.
“My partner Daniela is from Treviso in Italy and we met in Melbourne six years ago when she was the general manager of 400 Gradi, a brand with four pizza outlets across Melbourne,” Danny explains.
“I was general manager and a shareholder in a beautiful venue at Southbank in Melbourne, and about 18 months ago I felt I wanted to spread my wings. So, Daniela and I started traveling all over Australia, however we kept coming back to Noosa. In fact, we visited Noosa six times.”
The desire to work for themselves and operate their own restaurant was a shared dream and slowly their ideas on paper turned into a reality with the opening of 250 Grammi.
“The concept behind 250 Grammi is for our diners to share dishes like we used to growing up. After many years of experience, we were hearing that people were tired of this big meal in front of them, so we created this Italian, Mediterranean tapas,” Danny says.
“We offer a low price point, small portions, so everybody can enjoy different food from different regions of Italy. This concept is based on my memories of spending Sunday afternoons at home with my nonna enjoying several different flavours.”
Understanding the diners’ needs is paramount to Danny and Daniela’s operation.
“We like to approach customers to see what they really feel like that day, whether it’s meat, fish or a pizza, and to tailor an experience around that,” Danny explains.
“Learning what our customer’s preferences are, is important to me, then we can suggest something that’s perfect for them instead of them simply reading the menu and saying ‘I want this, this and thatʼ. We’re getting rid of entree, main and dessert. It doesn’t exist in this venue. Everything is designed to share, to experience different tastes and authenticity,” he says.
Their desire to stay true to the Italian heritage and flavours means that 75% of ingredients are imported from Italy.
“There’s less margin for us, but we don’t care. We get our ingredients three times a week, Italy to Melbourne and then Brisbane to Noosa. We respect and love the local produce and use fresh veggies, fish and seafood. However, when it comes to the pizza for example, we prefer to import the high-quality flour and yeast from Italy. It provides an authenticity and that’s our point of difference in this market,” Danny says.
Despite their fine-dining backgrounds, Danny and Daniela have created a more casual experience with customers interacting and having fun with the staff. After all, fun and laughter have always been associated with the Italian ‘family’ table.
“When a customer leaves 250 Grammi, we want them to say three words: ‘genuine, authentic and tastyʼ,” Danny says. “Actually, we’d like it if they said that ‘it was the best Italian food they’ve ever had in Australiaʼ!”
For some of us, those family gatherings with mum, dad, nonno and nonna, around the dinner table are simply fond memories, however, it’s comforting to know that a place exists where aroma, flavour, good food, wine, atmosphere and laughter transports you back in time when life seemed less complicated.
Head Chef: Melvin Benjamin Matos Feliz (Benjo) from the Dominican Republic, moved to Italy as a toddler and grew up surrounded by Tuscan culinary culture. Has worked in France, The UK and Canada.
Head Chef Pizza Art: Stefano Simoni is acclaimed as one of the best Pizzaiolo in Melbourne and works an authentic Marana Forni pizza oven at 250 Grammi. With years of research and studies under his belt, pizza is Stefano’s lifelong passion.
To find out more about 250 Grammi, visit www.250grammi.com.au.