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Parking problematic for Piazza Del Sol

“I AM not a businessman. I am a chef who runs a business.” That simple pragmatism from chef Lui D’Annunzio belies the success of the popular Piazza Del Sol trattoria and pizzeria in Tuart Hill he owns with his brother, Sol. It has been 10 years since Piazza Del Sol emerged from the original family-owned deli and 35-seat take away Italian food outlet into a 100-seat casual dining Italian restaurant. It sits unobtrusively in suburbia between the restaurant strips of Osborne Park and Wanneroo Road to the west and east respectively. Piazza Del Sol’s growth to capacity seatings on most Wednesday to Sunday evenings has appeared apparently seamlessly; its clientele drawn mostly from the surrounding suburbs. However, there was a time not too long ago when the restaurant’s very existence was threatened by at least one complaint to the Stirling City Council over illegal parking nearby. Mr D’Annunzio told WA Business News the parking question had the potential to be a big issue and stop the business in its tracks. He conceded the council had to take heed of the complaints. “It has to listen to just one voice. If just one person calls, over anything, there is an issue that has to be resolved,” Mr D’Annunzio said. The issue, it transpired, was not that there were not enough parking bays, but that the restaurant’s own bays, nearby public car parks and legal parking areas were not properly defined. The D’Annunzios decided on a two-part strategy – to work with the council to identify and resolve the issue, and launch a petition to demonstrate the level of local support the restaurant had. An investigation revealed the existing parking was not the way it was supposed to be, with the issue more of a road alignment problem. When this was realised, the council rectified the problem with some minor changes leading up to the corner of Lawley and Stoneham streets, where the restaurant sits, resulting in the street bays being more clearly defined and offering better access to the parking at the rear. It also eliminated the confusion about where to park and where not to. “It is interesting that since the problem has been resolved, houses being offered for sale nearby have advertised their proximity to the restaurant as a positive,” Mr D’Annunzio said. He began his apprenticeship at the old Hilite 33 in central Perth in 1979, aged 16, the result of an introduction from a family friend in Tuart Hill, Walter Zorzi, who went on to found the prestige residential Zorzi home building group. “I had 10 international chefs working above me, but it was the Italian chef’s lead I followed,” Mr D’Annunzio said. “My head chef told me that after 15 years he was still learning. I’ve been in the same position for 25 years now and I’m still learning.” Another lesson has been in the ideas brought to the business by many new staff members. “Italian cooking is pretty easy. The trick is never substituting quality, continued excellent service and providing value for money,” Mr D’Annunzio said. After a visit to his parents’ hometown in Italy, he found the seeds for Piazza Del Sol while working in a pizza/lasagne bar in Perth in 1986; “chalk board menu on the wall and chatting to the customers as the food was prepared in front of them. I loved that place.” The five-strong D’Annunzio family came to Perth from Griffith in NSW in 1973 and bought a house in Tuart Hill. “One day, soon after arriving, dad went out to buy some bread, milk and a paper and bought the deli,” Mr D’Annunzio said. “We all worked there. Piazza Del Sol is pretty much the same. The whole family, including my wife, mum and dad all pitch in.” The LuCafe Italian takeaway operation was set up in 1987, Piazza Del Sol in 1996. Mr D’Annunzio’s parents sold the deli in 1990. Mr D’Annunzio lives close to his work – just across the road on the opposite corner with his wife and two young children. Opening hours have just been reduced from six evenings a week to five, the shortened working week as much a lifestyle choice as one of economics.

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