Wholesome Italian flavours in the heart of Maitland
When you dine at Fratelli Roma, you very quickly realise why this Italian restaurant has become a much-loved part of the local community for nearly 10 years.
The last decade has seen a lot of changes in restaurant culture, and Fratelli Roma’s owners Dan and Christine Kibble have been there to witness them all. But the core of Fratelli Roma has remained unchanged: a family-run restaurant focused on outstanding service and food that Dan loves to cook.
Dan and Christine met at the now-closed Shakey Tables Restaurant in Pokolbin, when Dan was working in the kitchen and Christine in service. Dan had been a chef for over 10 years already, and Christine had spent much of her career working in restaurants. After many years of working for other people, they eventually decided it was time to open their own place.
“We both had a passion for the individual sides of our industry and didn’t really want to give up on it. So we found this space. It was a really simple space, and nothing like it is today. I think that was the key to it. We didn’t spend heaps to start out, we started out really simple, and then it’s just built up organically over that period of time,” Dan said.
Now, it’s 25 years since Dan first became a chef, and he still loves his job and feels as passionate as he did when he first got into cooking.
“It’s part of what makes the restaurant what it is – that I’m here and I enjoy it. I think it’s a reflection on the restaurant. If you’re here and you’re enjoying yourself, then the team is here and enjoying themselves, and I think that’s what makes Fratelli so nice,” he said.
After spending much of his career in fine dining cooking French and modern Australian cuisine, Dan has crafted a menu at Fratelli Roma that is a reflection of what he likes to cook. It’s Italian, but not strictly traditional – you’ll find confit duck leg atop a wild mushroom risotto, and seared barramundi fillet served with a macadamia pesto.
While the menu has non-Italian influences, the fresh pasta and gnocchi are a standout. Dan and his team make the pasta fresh each day, and it’s served with classic sauces like marinara and bolognese.
In an era where set menus have become commonplace, Fratelli Roma is committed to always offering a large a la carte menu.
“That’s part of what I’m proud of as well. Sticking to some of those traditional restaurant values – being able to have choice, being able to come in just have some prawn bruschetta and a brulee or a $65 steak and garlic prawns.”
And, regardless of what you choose from the menu, there’s sure to be a wine on Fratelli Roma’s wine list – carefully chosen by Dan, Christine, and restaurant manager Nathan – to match.
With 144 wines, it’s one of the biggest wine lists in the Hunter, and one that’s a reflection of each wine region on offer – think Hunter Valley shiraz and Semillon, chardonnay and pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula, and iconic Italian reds like Chianti and Barbera.
“We really do have a fantastic wine list. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. It takes a huge investment to stock that kind of wine, as well as to cellar it,” Dan said.
The effort has clearly been worth it – the attention to detail at Fratelli Roma, whether it’s across the menus or the service, makes diners’ special occasions that much more special.
“It’s about building relationships with people, getting to know people’s families, and having loyal customers. And that’s so nice. Over a long time being here, you really do become part of the community. You see families grow up.”
Dan doesn’t know what the future holds, but he does know that he’ll continue putting his heart and soul into his work at Fratelli Roma. It’s a timely reminder to stop and appreciate your favourite restaurants – Fratelli Roma included – and all the hard work that goes in behind the scenes to make them the places where we make some of our most treasured memories.