Pasta masters toast of the town
FINALLY, the 2021 Federation Business School Commerce Ballarat Business Excellence Awards have come to a spectacular conclusion.
While the category winners were revealed during an online event in early October, the overall Business of the Year victor wasn’t announced until a special gala event held at Civic Hall last Thursday evening.
Ultimately, and in front of about 400 people, Carboni’s Italian Kitchen was revealed as the big winner.
“It feels surreal,” said owner Donatello Pietrantuono. “I wasn’t expecting it. Looking at the calibre of the finalists and the winners I never thought in a million years I’d be on this stage.
“I’m so happy, to be recognised of course, but for all the staff to be recognised at the same time.
“Yes, I might be the face of it, but we have 20 employees that push so hard, that stick together and that have got the vision together in the last year-and-a-half.
“Our motto, our vision, is bring a slice of Italy to Ballarat.”
What’s even more remarkable about Carboni’s win is that it came in a year, and specifically during a judging period, when one of the restaurant’s biggest drawcards, its vibrant an authentic trattoria-like dining experience, was curtailed due to COVID.
Yet Mr Pietrantuono said while the pandemic had been challenging, it allowed his restaurant and the people behind it to shine in other ways.
“It made us stronger,” he said. “Yes, we had a vision, and business plan, and we knew who we were, but it made us stronger in the sense that we had to rethink.
“Our doors were closed, you couldn’t come to us, so how could we keep bringing that slice of Italy to Ballarat.
“We did a cooking show, videos, recipes, newsletters, family meal packs, opening the deli where we featured only what we produced.”
Commerce Ballarat board chair Hayley Coates agreed Carboni’s was a worthwhile winner and the businesses’ ingenuity had really shone through.
“I’ve ordered delivery from Carboni’s a number of times throughout the pandemic, so I think the quality of their offering and the service was still available regardless of whether you could go there in person or not,” she said.
Along with the Business of the Year reveal, the evening featured live entertainment by the Piano Bar and Ballarat Lyric Theatre, as well as painting demonstrations from Pinot & Picasso artists.
Ms Coates said for many in attendance the event was the first major get together after the last wave of lockdowns and restrictions.
“It is sensational to be back with everyone and the people we haven’t seen for 18 months in person,” she said.
“If you feel the vibe that’s out there tonight, everyone is really excited to be out and able to mingle and celebrate something in a real-life event and not have to be online.”