22/06/2004 - 22:00


22/06/2004 - 22:00


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A Fremantle icon with a focus on familiarity is preparing to celebrate 50 years in business, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.




A Fremantle icon with a focus on familiarity is preparing to celebrate 50 years in business, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.


Fremantle icon the Roma Restaurant will mark a significant milestone early next month when it celebrates 50 years in business.

The Roma has built a reputation for doing the basics well, and it is this focus co-owner Morena Abrugiato says has been the driving force behind its success.

Part of that down-to-earth approach is the inclusive ambience at the Roma. A ‘Roast Chicken One Pound’ sign painted by Alan Bond hangs on a wall above a corkboard filled with dozens of pictures of the Roma Restaurant’s customers, many of them sent to the restaurant owners while holidaying in Italy.

Such a cluttered wall would look out of place in most restaurants, but at the Roma, which celebrates its milestone on July 3, it’s right at home.

Ms Abrugiato’s mother and father, Frank and Nela, founded the restaurant in 1954, at a time where there was no busy cafe strip or weekend influx of visitors to Freo.

Ms Abrugiato and her sister, Viviana Murray, are now taking the restaurant into the future, but are doing so by preserving its old-world charm.

“It was really tough when our father died four years ago because I think people expected that we would change it,” Ms Abrugiato says.

“They would say ‘Frank wouldn’t have done it like that’ but now I think people realise that we are not making huge changes and it’s the restaurant we grew up in and have worked in for a long time.”

Most recipes are the same ones their father used 50 years ago, many of the tables are the same, and the service has remained consistent.

“A lot of people came here on their first date and now they come back with their grandkids,” Ms Abrugiato says. 

“A lot of regulars just come in and they help themselves to glasses and sit down; it really is like they are at home here.

“I think one of the main things why people come back is that we haven’t changed and people don’t want us to change.

“We have the original laminex tables.

“We’ve had offers from people to buy them but we’re not selling them.”

The restaurant is known for its roast chicken and its spaghetti, and a price list a little under market rates.

“It has always been like that so I guess that’s why we do it. It’s offering very good quality food at a reasonable price,” Ms Abrugiato says.

But while it’s reasonable to think operating a restaurant gets easier over time, the job requires just as much time and energy as it did in the beginning, according to Ms Abrugiato.

“You’ve got to be continually working at standards and service because people won’t come back just because we are the Roma. If you let standards slip they’ll stop coming back. We’re under pressure to perform, because the minute somebody finds something wrong, they’ll say something.

“You can’t become complacent,” she says.

Roma Restaurant is celebrating its birthday over the July 3 weekend and there are sure to be a few bottles of bubbly on ice.


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