Like nearly all hospitality businesses, when COVID hit, Claude Guido, owner of Flinders Street weddings and events venue Vlla D'Oro, had to quickly think of a new way to keep his business afloat.
"COVID made us think outside the square, so we thought we'd start doing takeaway menus and all of a sudden that became fairly popular," he said.
While the popularity of the take-home meals including lasagna, cannelloni and pasta did not surprise Mr Guido during COVID, what did make him raise his eyebrows was how the orders continued to roll in even after restrictions were lifted.
"I thought once COVID had finished, that'd be the end of it, but it just kept rolling along."
While the venue was known for its events, as more people enjoyed the food made by Mr Guido and his family at home, the catering business began to take off.
Then, in 2021, when the landlord decided to sell the property to a new owner with plans to develop the site into apartments, Mr Guido decided to pull the plug on events and focus on catering and takeaway full time.
Since moving out of the Flinders Street premises, the business has been operating from the Croatian Catholic Centre, but earlier this year moved into a purpose built site in Fairy Meadow, only a few blocks up from where Mr Guido's career began, working the pans at the Fraternity Club.
In addition to continuing the catering and eat-at-home meals for hungry families, Mr Guido is opening a shop front, for the first time in his career, with house-made paninis and coffee for takeaway.
"This is all new to me," he said.
Instead of meticulously planned events, with seating charts and dietary requirements, what the next day will look like is unknown, but after 22 years running his own business, Mr Guido is trusting his instincts.
"My gut tells me that we're going to be busy."
From next Wednesday, the store will be open from 6am, and Mr Guido said he's looking forward to being able to engage more with the regulars he's come to know over the decades from behind the espresso machine, rather than a smile or wave from behind the pass.
"Today I saw a lady I did events for for many, many years, and she's one of our customers that picks up basically every week," he said.
"You miss it, because you'd miss what you did for 20-odd years, but we'll see how this goes."
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