Gaetano hails from Naples, Italy. He moved to Australia just over 5 years ago after completing his studies, and began working for Fratelli Fresh almost immediately, first at Walsh Bay, then at EQ.
“I started as a casual, obviously. I was working as a waiter and bartender…then I just moved up in position and became bar manager, then I became assistant manager, then I got sponsored, started working full time for the company, and then I became second in charge of the venue [Walsh Bay], then got promoted to general manager…and now I’m general manager of Fratelli, El Camino, and Bavarian [in EQ].”
The venue at Walsh Bay was much smaller and a good place to learn the ins and outs of the business. When the new restaurant opened up in EQ in 2017, Gaetano was very keen to transfer across.
“I love the fact that it’s an open space venue. I love the fact that it’s, like, outdoor and you can actually see the sun and people walking around…it’s an open precinct and that’s what I always loved.”
The EQ venue was much bigger than Walsh Bay and presented a steep learning curve for Gaetano.
“Well it’s challenging obviously. Obviously, you have more staff, more people, more customers. In the beginning it’s challenging, you’ve got to organise yourself first, then organise your staff…It’s just a way of looking at the problem, facing the problem, finding a solution – always finding a solution.”
For Gaetano, a typical day at Fratelli Fresh starts at around 10am. He comes into the restaurant, takes care of back-of-house business, checks equipment, stock; makes sure everything is clean, tidy, in its place.
Just before doors open at around 11:30am, Gaetano calls the staff together for a team briefing to discuss the day’s game plan.
“What’s gonna happen today, how many people we’re expecting, what events is going on, what’s the goal of the day, what’s the area we need to put an extra eye on…just making sure the team is all on the same page.”
They have briefings before lunch and dinner which will vary in length and detail depending on what’s happening in the precinct on that day.
“Then we start the service and when we start the service we just look after guests, make sure they have the best experience ever.”
Fratelli Fresh has a traditional feel and is very welcoming to family groups. The clientele, however, ranges across the board.
“It’s a mix to be honest. We have every type of generation here. There is the family style coming; there is teenagers coming because they’re probably going to Strike, probably going to the cinema, they’re going to Magic Mike, for example, or going to a stadium for a concert or for a game. We have older people going to the Monet exhibition or other exhibitions.”
There are also the regulars during the day; mums from the dance companies, tenants from the precinct, people working at events. They also get lots of walk-ins, especially during big events and holidays.
Was it Gaetano’s own heritage that attracted him to the Italian-themed Fratelli Fresh in the first place?
“Yes, in the beginning, yes. Obviously, the fact that I was close to the culture and obviously being Italian it makes not only your life easier when you’re working in the restaurant, but it’s your own knowledge, you know what’s going on, you know the food, you know the kind of service you want to give to customers and what the customer expects in terms of vibe and relationships.”
The staff have varied cultural backgrounds, but all work together as a family, pitching in and helping each other when it gets crazy. Gaetano is only too happy to draw on his roots and do some bussing when necessary – but he never interferes in the kitchen:
“Mario would kill me!”
It’s a bonus that the restaurant is situated in EQ. Gaetano loves atmosphere in the precinct.
“It’s an entertainment venue area, so you’ve got people coming for every reason, like they’re coming because they’re going somewhere. So you kind of build relationships. For me it’s exciting to have new relationships or new things happening…like you always have something different going on. It’s not static.”