Running and cooking at fine dining establishments Caveau and Bangalay, Thomas Chiumento said what he's always longed to do is serve up a plate of pasta and a glass of wine.
Now, he gets that chance, taking over The Throsby with partner Kate Morgan.
The pair are taking the wine bar in a new direction, serving up pasta and an expanded wine list in the venue that pushed forward Wollongong's small bar scene.
They're also renaming the joint.
From Thursday, August 18, the Kembla Street venue will be known as Mia Mia, signifying the venue's Italian intention and named after Mr Chiumento and Ms Morgan's six month old, Mia.
The venue harks back to Mr Chiumento's Italian roots, and he's bringing his love for food, wine and family to the fore.
"My grandparents are Italian and I've never done Italian food," he said.
"It was the one thing that I've wanted to do. Pasta is what I grew up with, so I felt a pasta wine bar is basically me, personified in food."
The connection to his heritage is not only in the name, the honey in the panacotta is from Mr Chiumento's family's bees that have been in the family since when his grandfather arrived in the 60s.
The rest of the menu is a tight list of 17 dishes, starting out with bar snacks of oysters and olives, entrees including burrata and persimmon and fried zucchini flowers and classic pastas including cacio e pepe and an ox tail and mushroom paperdelle.
All pasta is fresh, with some made in house.
The duo are also stepping up the wine list, expanding it out to include a range of Italian drops, including Italian varietals grown in Australia.
"Italian varietals in Australia have taken off in the last few years and they grow really, really well in Australia," Mr Chiumento said.
Opening a new hospitality venture at this time hasn't been without its challenges - Mr Chiumento has seen first hand how hard it is to find and retain staff - and the environment has necessitated a pared-back menu of simpler dishes, done well.
But, having seen the space formerly known as The Throsby evolve over the years, when the opportunity came up to use the space to go back to his roots, it was one that Mr Chiumento couldn't pass up.
"It's all about family and friends and everyone coming together, that's the best part of food, it's the medium with which we have memories with our friends."
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