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Proud Pair - Luca Benedetti and Cristian Pieri

Published: Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Their slogan is 'A Taste of Italy' – and it was precisely the need to reproduce that taste which gave birth to the business. Mamma Mia Bakery is the brain-child of two Italian friends, Luca Benedetti and Cristian Pieri, men who missed the breads and the pastries of their country so badly that the only solution was to make them themselves. Only several months old, the enterprise currently operates out of premises – 'the Lab', as Cristian describes them – at Casuarina, near Kingscliff. Already, however, word is spreading about their delectable baked goods.

proudpairIt was through a common friend that the two men met several years ago. Rimini-born Cristian, a qualified chef, had arrived in Australia and fairly promptly found work at Kingscliff's Bellini restaurant. Luca, on the other hand, from a small village near Udine, was a surveyor in his former life but in Australia chose to retrain in commercial cooking, management and hospitality at a Robina college. He worked as a cook at the Hotel Great Northern in Byron Bay then spent two years with French bakery L'Ultime, learning the art of bread-making. 'When I came here', he tells me, 'I was starting to miss the food of home. At home we would make things like salami from scratch…I was missing those flavours and cooking for myself.'

Cristian had been whipping up pasta dishes at Bellini for 3 1/2 years by the time the two met. Right from the start they were sharing dreams of running their own business together: it was just a matter of what sort. They decided quite quickly that there was a need for the types of baked goods they were brought up on in Italy, which they were unable to find anywhere close by. Then a space became available, part of the Osteria complex at Casuarina – and so, Cristian tells me, 'we built up our own lab.'

Luca says that at the outset it was a matter of trial and error. With recourse to traditional old recipes – hand-written by grandmothers largely – they started baking, tapping into memory, their memories informing the end result. Indeed, it was all those senses based on memory – smell and touch, taste and texture – they were seeking to reproduce. 'The smell sometimes of a biscuit', Luca says, 'reminds us of when we were kids – or the bread. It is reproducing what you like in your mind into a recipe.' Eventually they felt satisfied with their biscuits and breads and in late November 2013 launched the business. bread

So far, it is principally a wholesale operation. Because it is so young and because there are just the two men doing all the baking, they have only now begun to use a salesman for limited outlets between the Gold Coast and Ballina. And while their three baking days a week require ungodly starts at around 2 a.m (the remaining three days they work are devoted to research, recipe-development and -testing and meetings) both Luca and Cristian are determined that the business enables them to continue enjoying the lifestyle for which they have chosen to live where they do. In addition, Luca has a family: wife Daria and two very young children. It is Daria who is chiefly in charge of the marketing and the social media – Daria who confides that the only things she misses abut Italy are friends and food. Thanks to Luca and Cristian the latter is being looked after to some extent! 

Their range includes ciabatta, sfilatino (similar to a baguette), buns, grissini, taralli, crostate, cornetti (a sort of croissant), those wonderfully crunchy Tuscan almond biscuits called Cantucci, nutty Baci di Dama, similar to Melting Moments, shortbready Biscotti della Nonna and my particular favourite, the Amaretti, exquisitely light, macaroony, a little chewy. Everything is lovingly hand-made from start to finish. 'We are proud of the product so far', Luca tells me, 'and we don't want to do anything low-standard. That's why we move slowly.' To find out more about both the business and the products, visit their website www.Mammamiabakery.com

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