Authentic cuisine and quality service are the mainstays of Mario Chiametti’s Millioncino, which has been a west end favourite for more than a decade. Emily Morgan reports.
WHEN Mario Chiametti established Millioncino on Murray Street in 1999, there was little ‘entertainment’ in the area other than a late-night cafe and a pub.
Twelve years on, the face of the west end of the city has changed, but the Italian eatery with its hardwood interior and soft furnishings remains, having firmly established its reputation among its surrounding corporate clientele.
Originally Mr Chiametti didn’t want to work nights and aimed to set up a quality cafe instead. But when he learned the area’s clientele was largely business folk, and there were no restaurants to provide competition, he set up shop as the (then) newest face to fine dining.
“I realised it was missing in the city, at the time there was è cucina and I thought, maybe there is a market,” Mr Chiametti told Gusto.
The first few years were challenging, with little foot traffic and few people on Murray Street after hours, but that changed when the Woodside Plaza opened in 2004, bringing a large corporate client base to the west end of town, just around the corner from Millioncino.
“The restaurant has been designed to cater for this sort of clientele, business people. They come here, they can have a good and quick lunch, but they can still talk about their business. The service is attentive and quick ... we know they have to be back in their office,” Mr Chiametti says.
Located next to a serviced apartment complex, the restaurant also has a licence to provide room service – a handy inflow of business for Millioncino.
It is a traditional Italian restaurant and is, naturally, all about the food – you won’t see any soggy Australianised spag bol coming out of the kitchen. Mr Chiametti is passionate about bringing authentic Italian tastes to his restaurant and draws on his northern Italian upbringing for inspiration.
“That is part of what contributes to our business, because I never give in, I say, that (traditional) is what I do, and that is what I sell. I don’t want to take any shortcuts,” he says.
“Food is all about memories. Many times you say ‘it tastes like my grandma’s stew or the way my mother does it’, so you enjoy food when it is able to take you back in time and reminds you of something.
“For me when I think of polenta, the taste it comes from my mother, that is the taste polenta should have, or the ravioli my mother is making, the tomato sauce, it is all about good memories.”
Twelve years on, the face of Murray Street has changed and Millioncino is waiting for the additional flow of customers that will come when Raine Square and Perth Arena are finally finished.
But Mr Chiametti says the changes to the city have not been all good.
“In the last two years I have noticed a big increase in bars, or restaurants that act like a bar. I think this is bringing down a little bit the quality of the area. You start to notice things you didn’t notice years ago,” he says.
“When you start to notice the changes in clientele and behaviour of people in the street because of the regulators you start to be concerned. I did work for 12 years to create something. It affects my business in a negative way.”
Mr Chiametti says the area’s clientele demographic is changing and he is working around the changing face of the street at night, but won’t submit to changing his formula.
“I don’t want to become another bar, I don’t want to become another pub, so I will continue to do what I do and I hope the people they will just understand,” says Mr Chiametti, who puts Millioncino’s success down to some crucial elements.
“Because I believe in the area and honestly believe in what I am doing, the standard and quality, that is what makes the place successful. It is persistent in keeping up the quality, never give up,” he says.
Mr Chiametti shares the staffing frustrations felt by many in Perth’s hospitality industry.
He says the lack of training for front-of-house staff and waiters is creating a problem for the industry and has forced him to seek out experienced international staff and bring them into Australia on a sponsored visa.
“You need to have the right people who understand, who follow you and share your passion,” Mr Chiametti says.
“You can make a fantastic dish but if you don’t have anybody to bring it out, talk to the people and serve them properly, that is a problem; the two things they go together.”