An opportunity to do what this family does best.
Located at the river end of Pakington Street, Pompei Geelong opened their doors back in September with a clear focus on combining Italian simplicity with high-quality produce, delivering a delicious and authentic Italian dining experience to locals.
A local family run business of four, comprising Alastair, Alastair’s partner Tamara, Kai, their daughter, and Brendan, their brother-in-law, Pompei combines about 50 years of experience working in food, dishing up the kind of devotedly rustic, no-frills authentic Italian food that you can feel doing you good, body and soul.
We spoke to the family who are nearing two months since first opening their doors.
First up, congrats on your venture. What inspired you to open this business?
We were inspired to open Pompei on Pakington street as we have been looking for a hospitality venture for a couple of years. We were just about to open a bar in the CBD, then COVID hit. Three out of the four partners became unemployed in their former roles, so we looked for a business that we could offer great food and drinks (either during lockdown or once restrictions lift).
For us, it’s not just about running our own business; it’s also about waking up each day with purpose and drive. It’s also about looking for an opportunity to do what we do best, serve delicious, simple fare with premium service.
The pandemic made us nervous about opening a new restaurant but we knew our lengthy hospitality experience (a combined 50 years or so experience) would serve us well. We asked many other hospitality owners and managers for advice, also seeking lots of advice from our accountant and friends who are designers and business owners.
What were the challenges in opening a business during a pandemic?
The biggest challenge opening during the pandemic is the state governments changes. New requirements are regularly introduced (that may seem simple on paper), but require new policies and processes, training and adjusting our back end to make it work. We have to be constantly innovative and find clever ways to market our business to ensure Geelong people know about us, as we are still growing and building brand awareness.
Did anything surprise you throughout the process?
The biggest surprise to us is the diversity of interest in our little business and how connected Geelong people are. Everyday people come in and say how they found out about Pompei, maybe it’s a friend who dined here, or a colleague. We even had Kardinia Park email us asking to participate in an upcoming staff launch, which was a great opportunity. And a local footy personality makes a regular appearance to grab our take away food so we have a wide audience.
How has the reception from locals been so far?
The locals have been amazingly supportive. People even walk past and say, ‘we can’t wait to have a wine and antipasto platter in the sun’ as they are on their daily dog walk. We love our new home in Newtown. It’s such a pretty part of the world.
What’s next for you and the business?
Our plan is to increase dine in capacity as we are currently turning away many bookings due to restrictions. We can’t wait to open up more, when it’s safe to do so! We also are testing dessert cocktails and increasing our specials to include more seafood, with Fritto Misto (a popular dish on the Amalfi coast of Italy) soon on offer.
Business wise, we look to partner with Feed Me Geelong to ensure our surplus stock is being used within the Geelong community.
Lastly, we’re all about supporting local businesses and each other – if you could recommend another local business who would it be?
We love supporting local. Although we have an Italian restaurant and some Italian imports, all our fresh produce is locally made or sourced.
We feature Bellarine Peninsula and Geelong based wineries including Baie, Jack Rabbit and Lethbridge wines. We love Born and Bread who are Pakington St locals, get all our fresh fruit and vegetables from Harvey’s in Highton, gluten free pasta from Otway Pasta Company and Meredith Goat’s Cheese.