Mario Avegnano’s traditional hearty Italian fare has Tamborine Mountain locals coming back for more. Since taking over Belvedere on Main earlier this year Mario has transformed a tired, dated building into a cosy, welcoming and vibrant Italian restaurant.
He knows the power of the locals network and for that reason is focused on ensuring diners have a great experience every time they visit.
Large portions, light, fresh food and a fun atmosphere are at the heart of his philosophy.
He describes the food as rustic Italian, similar to the food you would experience in Southern Italy.
Much of his inspiration and training comes from his mama Alessandra, who was born and bred in Naples.
“She is a great cook, ten times better than me,” says Mario.
“I wish she was here. Everything in my restaurant is homemade, the gnocchi, the lasagne, the pesto. Once a week I make my pasta, it is very popular.
“Our serves are very generous, I don’t want anyone coming here and then they go to McDonalds afterwards.
“People come here and they can’t eat it all, they have to take some home.”
Mario and his Japanese-born wife Yoshie moved to Tamborine Mountain from Melbourne with their two-year-old daughter Michelle. They were keen to buy their own restaurant and when they saw Belvedere on Main was for sale they jumped at the opportunity.
The restaurant comes with a rich history.
The property was purchased by Lucy Beetham in January 1924 and James Holmes began the Belvedere Tea Rooms. Some years later a billiard room was built and the local doctor would visit weekly to conduct appointments. Advertising for the Belvedere Cafe, as it became known, promoted it as ‘the leading house for home-made specialties, dainty luncheons, morning and afternoon teas, hot water, soft drinks, Kodak supplies, tobaccos and confectionary. Licenced billiard and hairdressing Saloon.’
Norm and Babs Goodchap purchased the building in 1960 and started the Golden Fleece Service Station next door. In 1989 Alice Tozeland changed the cuisine to Thai and later the restaurant transformed again into a European-style eatery.
Mario says he quickly realised that the Mountain was crying out for an authentic Italian restaurant. His bookings diary and visitor book suggest he was right.
BEST FOOD EVER!! Writes one happy customer. ‘Wonderful,’ writes another.
The menu features 13 authentic Italian pizzas and a selection of ‘Australian pizzas’. Mario has renamed his Supreme pizza with the lot the Michelle, after his young daughter.
Mario is a trained pastry chef and makes his desserts from scratch, as well as his thin and crispy pizza bases.
After his early apprenticeship with his mama, Mario studied for his diploma in Rome and trained in restaurants in Italy. He packed his backpack to see the world and worked for an Italian pastry company in Miami Florida. He spent some years working in New Zealand before arriving to Melbourne.
Mario is now an Australian citizen and says he’s enjoying life on Tamborine Mountain.
Popular dishes on the menu include Gnocchi al pesto, his homemade lasagne, Fettuccini Genoa and his Carbonara.
“Carbonara is from Roma, it was a dish created by people working in the mines in the 1800s,” he says.
“They were poor people – they used one egg, a bit of bacon and some pasta. The carbon in their hair from the mines would fall into the dish and make it black, now we use pepper.
“I try to make the best Italian food that I can, it is different to Italy because the temperature is different.”
Mario sources as much local produce as he can. His very popular 500g rib on the bone is supplied by the local butcher. He often prepares his main courses in the wood-fired oven, giving them a unique flavour.
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays Mario offers a $25, three-course special.
Belvedere on Main is open Tuesday to Sunday. Lunch is served from 11.30am to 2.30pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Dinner is from 6pm Tuesday to Sunday.