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Mama Mia, Stefano is back

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Charis Burrows takes a call at Mama Mia, while Stefano Barioni looks on (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Seven months after moving his eatery from Crystal Caves to the Hamilton Parish Workmen’s Club, chef Stefano Barioni said he would never go back.

He opened Mama Mia at 6 Workmen’s Lane in August.

“I was a little worried that I would lose my customer base,” Mr Barioni said. “However, 85 per cent of my regulars have followed us here. We are also getting a good slice of the neighbourhood. Tourists are also finding us.”

Mr Barioni had to rebrand because the restaurant name ‘Café Olé’ and its social-media pages, belonged to Crystal Caves owners.

He was asked to leave the previous location because Crystal Caves management felt he was drawing too much traffic to the neighbourhood.

“There is plenty of parking at our new location,” Mr Barioni said. “We are doing very well after the move. We actually have more customers because we are now open from 9am to 10pm. Things are busier in the evening than at lunch.”

When he announced he was moving some customers expressed concern that the area around the club had experienced antisocial behaviour in the past.

Mama Mia’s new space at the Hamilton Parish Workmen’s Club took a lot of upgrading (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

After several months in the new place, Mr Barioni has not seen this. He said his Crawl Hill neighbours have been supportive and kind, although some people were a little wary the first week the restaurant opened.

“That was quickly sorted out,” he said.

He has also found area appetites to be slightly different.

“We are finding people from around here are little more interested in meat than fish,” he said.

The new kitchen is small, only 900 square feet at the most, so patrons must eat at tables outside.

“The only problem is that it is very windy up here,” Mr Barioni admitted. “The wind has not stopped all winter. It either comes from the north or from the west.”

On this particular day the wind was so strong, ahead of an oncoming storm, that the breeze caught up a small paper roll from a receipt machine and sent it unfurling in the breeze.

“It’s like a party around here,” Mr Barioni joked.

He left Café Olé, thinking it would take him a month to reopen. In reality, he did not launch Mama Mia until after Cup Match. The new space was in very poor condition.

“Inside, we had to fix a lot of structural issues, such as problems with the ceiling and the flooring,” Mr Barioni said. He painted the outside of Mama Mia a cheerful yellow.

Like many local restaurateurs he has seen food costs rising in the last few years. However, he is determined to keep his prices down, for as long as possible.

“I just enjoy what I do,” he said. “I take a different approach than other people. Instead of charging you $10 for something and you come once a week, I would rather charge you $3, and have you come three or four times a week. I should put my prices up a bit but I am resisting doing it.”

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Published February 22, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 23, 2024 at 8:10 am)

Mama Mia, Stefano is back

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