Travel to Pompei.
Whether you’re craving a buttery pumpkin ravioli or you’re in the mood for traditional spaghetti bolognese, Geelong is truly starting to shine bright with its offerings of delicious and authentic Italian dining experiences, especially with new kids on the block Pompei Geelong.
Located at the river end of Pakington Street, Pompei Geelong opened their doors late last month with a clear focus on combining Italian simplicity with high-quality produce.
A local family run business of four; this is far from their first rodeo.
Alastair has managed esteemed restaurants in London and Melbourne, boasting a passion for great wine and cocktails. The mother of Pompei, Alastair’s partner Tamara, has cooked for multiple years, and run many businesses in different areas. Kai, their daughter, has worked all over the Bellarine and has inherited our love of great food, wine and travel, waitressing for some of the most beautiful wineries and restaurants. And Brendan, their brother-in-law, has cooked all over the world mastering different cuisines, earning his stripes training with an authentic Italian chef.
“We are locals in Geelong and we’re big lovers of great food and wine,” Tamara explains. “We’ve all been working in hospitality for most of our lives and have about 50 years of combined experience working in food, and finally decided to open our own restaurant!”
The idea for opening a family business was initially conceived three years ago, but it wasn’t until COVID first struck, that the team decided to chase their dreams, stumbling upon the vacant spot on Pakington street.
“Our spot on Pakington popped up and it was such a great location with an amazing courtyard, we knew it was exactly what we were looking for,” Tamara says.
“Once we decided on Italian cuisine, we reflected on a trip to Italy six years ago, where we went to Pompei and had the most delicious food in our trip, and made it clear that our name would be Pompei.”
While they didn’t account for the second wave of restrictions, the family refused to let a pandemic stand in the way of their dreams any longer and opened in the middle of the second lockdown, offering too good to refuse carb-loaded takeaway pasta.
“We originally bought the spot a several months ago, before the idea of a second lockdown had become reality. By the time everything had been approved, it was the beginning of August and lockdown part two,” Tamara explains.
“As much as the lockdown scared us, we realised it was the perfect opportunity to finetune our methods in a quieter environment. Takeaway has allowed us to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and it’s great knowing that we can slowly work our way up to regular service.
“It really allows us to be able to practice and ensure that by the time things are back to normal, we’ll be well and truly ready.”
Dishing up the kind of devotedly rustic, no-frills authentic Italian food that you can feel doing you good, body and soul, Pompei’s strength is its simplicity with a modern feel.
“We love and respect the traditional Italian way of cooking, and also want to bring in our style to make it our own,” Tamara says. “We want to focus on high-quality homemade pasta, and hopefully we can get to a point where all of our pasta is homemade.”
Taking inspiration from their culinary experience in Pompei, classic Italian flavours are given a contemporary makeover. The pasta menu strikes all the right notes, featuring the likes of homemade tagliatelle alle cozze, spaghetti alla carbonara, homemade gnocchi Osso Bucco and penne pesto. You’ll also find a refreshing Caprese or pear e noce salad among the other items listed on the menu.
If there’s a cuisine that is made for long leisurely meals shared with a group, it has to be Italian, and Pompei has embraced that tradition with the inclusion of antipasti platters and dessert alongside their pasta. Creating one molto bene feast for their customers, you can begin your Pompei experience like a true Italian, grazing on prosciutto, sopressa, mozzarella balls, olives, roasted eggplant, delicious goat’s cheese, and grilled bread, indulge in the tantalising pasta dishes, and then finish the evening with a chocolate and hazelnut torte or lemon tart.
“The menu and dishes were a group effort, based on the trip to Italy. For us, everyone’s opinion is very important to the process as we all have our areas of expertise and bring a different perspective to the table.”
Making good on their promise of authenticity, you can even chase your pasta with something big, bold, Italian and interesting, like a bottle of Parri Chianti Riservia from Montespertoli, or something refreshing like a bottle of Paolovino Pinot Grigio from Veneto.
While the abundance of experience within the family will be a catalyst for some new and exciting ideas, Pompei’s mission for the moment is just to create a welcoming atmosphere for the people of Geelong to enjoy some authentic Italian food.
“As much as the current lockdown restricts us, we’ve been spending the last few weeks getting to know all of the Pako locals who have been so lovely, and getting to know all of the other business owners.
“The community in this area is so strong, in our few weeks of opening we’ve already had repeat customers supporting us, which we’re so grateful for. We need to have a strong community presence, even though we’re the new kids on the block!
“Once we’re more established, we’ve got plans to increase our use of local produce, introduce a pasta-making class with our head chef, and work with community organisations to ensure any wasted produce can be reused by people who need it most,” Tamara adds.
“Another plan is to go back to Italy and finetune our knowledge of the food of Naples.”
From Italian comfort food to welcoming smiles from this Geelong family, it’s clear this eatery will make you feel right at home.
Pompei is open Wednesday to Sunday.
You can find them at 321 Pakington Street, Newtown and contact them on 03 5298 1414.
For anymore information, visit the website.