Criniti’s Wollongong opens four days early and chef Ben Burgess takes us on a tour

Anyone out in Wollongong on Saturday night got a big surprise to find the new Criniti’s Italian restaurant open four days early.

The official first day is still Tuesday but everything at Criniti’s in Keira Street was ready ahead of schedule.

So it was decided to open the doors to the public on what was going to be a night for family and friends which was moved forward to Friday.

The 55 new Wollongong staff found themselves busy and were put through their paces with a full restaurant the whole night.

At the stage Tuesday is the next chance to dine at Criniti’s.

Saturday’s opening came just days after the Wollongong-born head chef started and staff completed their final stages of training.

Ben Burgess has been involved in the opening of the new Jose Jones cafe and coffee spot at the Timbermill Studios in Bulli.

‘’Before that I was at Scarborough Hotel,” he said.

“I have also worked in Sydney for a while.”

Mr Burgess’ wife Mani Burgess has also been a chef.

They both started their culinary careers as teenagers at McDonald’s in Corrimal Street, Wollongong.

Mrs Burgess was a manager at McDonald’s at 16 and did her apprenticeship with the Novotel.

But she has recently changed career and now works for a telco.

The couple have two children.

Mr Burgess has been working with six kitchen staff in recent days preparing for Criniti’s Wollongong to open next week.

He expects demand to be high and that number to quickly grow.

Many of the 55 new recruits in Wollongong have been trained at Woolloomooloo.

And Criniti’s Darling Harbour head chef Ike Arimado has been at the Keira Street eatery during the last week preparing the kitchen and fine tuning the staff training so the system works like a well oiled machine when the doors open.

“I am helping set things up the Criniti’s way,” he said.

Mr Arimado has been with Criniti’s 16 years and said being the ninth restaurant in the chain meant many lessons had been learned and systems fine tuned to create the best commercial kitchen yet.

Kitchen staff in the Wollongong restaurant all have a station and the process is designed to run smoothly.

Wollongong is the first new eatery in a national expansion that will soon include Perth and Brisbane.

Mr Burgess said it was exciting to work for a company with such a following for its food and extensive menu based on traditional Italian family recipes. He has a wealth of experience but sees working for a national restaurant chain as another step forward in his career.

Sarah Giusti  moved from Victoria last weekend where she has worked for the two Criniti’s already located in that state.

Her partner has just started work at Harbourfront Restaurant in Wollongong.

The Criniti Group is interested in hearing from Illawarra charities for a significant community donation it is intending to make at its official VIP launch on July 18.

Just before it opened, A Criniti's Facebook shot of many of the 55 people employed in Wollongong.

Just before it opened, A Criniti's Facebook shot of many of the 55 people employed in Wollongong.