Handmade pasta pop-up Rigatoni for Toni brings together the Central Coast
Self-taught cook, hospitality worker, and filmmaker, Tristan Fraser, has a creative streak that made it hard to sit still during COVID lockdowns.
For a person used to thriving in the fast-paced creative world, Tristan knew he needed an outlet to get through COVID.
So, he began rolling pasta dough for a pop-up takeaway service at Like Minds Avoca to give the locals quality, comforting food and a good time amidst what was going on. Those good times continue to roll in venues across the coast as his business Rigatoni for Toni now creates the coolest pop-up events.
“It was a daily dough meditation where I get up and make a pasta dough by hand and play to make a new shape that I’d never made before, that was helpful. I always had a passion for cooking and creating.
“My mum is Greek, so I was brought up cooking in the kitchen from a young age. After doing a bit of self-discovery to find what makes me happy and stops me from going stagnant, I found working with my hands and having that creative outlet through food is beneficial for me,” Tristan shared.
With the support of Mel and Jimmy of Like Minds, the concept was to create ‘fast food pasta’ that was good for you. As lockdowns lifted, Mel organised a mini farmers market outside the cafe on a Wednesday afternoon to bring together local producers. This is now the origin of the dishes you’ll see served at a Rigatoni by Toni pop-up.
Tristan’s ethos is true seasonality and locality. He works with a small group of farmers in the Central Coast region who tell him what ingredients they have each week from which he will create his menus.
“It’s good for me because it keeps things fresh and interesting. It’s great for the community because I am giving them a story, showing them exactly where their food is coming from, and giving them true seasonal eating. If something is not available I do something else.”
You only need to look at the Rigatoni Instagram to see Tristan’s sixth sense for flavour, originality, and combination come to life. A recent dish featured intricate two-tone black and white chilli and kunzea cappelletti stuffed with locally caught king prawn, paired with golden beetroot, ruby grapefruit, and sweet leek.
It’s the concept of combination and collaboration that is the true heart of Rigatoni for Toni. Tristan has a genuine delight in seeing his business support other businesses, particularly the small-batch farmers that allow his ideas to make the plate.
“It’s all in the produce. I’m really blessed and honoured to be able to work with it. The real heroes are the farmers who have had it hard the last few years with floods, COVID, and pests.”
He extends this praise to the venues that host Rigatoni for Toni as he sees their ethos, and matches it with the atmosphere and the menu.
“It’s not just about me getting my name and business out there but building up the coast and bringing it together.”
For example, a Rigatoni for Toni event at Like Minds is family oriented, while one at Bar Toto in Ettalong is a more refined restaurant-style service. In the 9 years he has been on the coast, Tristan has seen demand for quality, fine, and local ingredients grow and hopes Rigatoni for Toni can help promote that. His events are packed and have a unique lively atmosphere so we can’t wait to see what’s next.
“The plan was always to open a little pasta wine bar as somewhere for people in their mid-years to go that’s not a beach club. The Coast wasn’t necessarily ready for it when I moved here 9 years ago but it’s changing. If the right venue at the right time pops up, then you’ll see Rigatoni for Toni under a different guise.”
Shout out to all Tristan’s collaborators who help make these events happen: Mel & Jimmy from Like Minds (Avoca), Kelly from Little Feet Gourmet (Ourimbah), Eden from Fanelli Organics (Mangrove Mountain), Virginia from Grace Springs Farm (Kulnara), and Shannon & Kylie from Full Circle Farm (Jilliby), and each venue that generously and enthusiastically hosts.
Oh, and to answer the common question “Who is Toni?”, we’re here to say she doesn’t exist! The name Rigatoni for Toni was inspired by a 1940s jazz song, can you guess which one?
For up-to-date pop-up events and locations, click here.