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Pablo Tacchini and his wife Yanina recently took ownership of Italian restaurant Cucina 1871 and neighbouring Tees St Cafe, on the corner of Tees and Itchen Sts, after they were approached by previous owners Lynn Stevens and Mary-Claire Anderson.
Mr Tacchini was executive chef at Cucina 1871 for several months after it opened in November 2013, before working in other restaurants.
The Tacchinis came to Oamaru in 2008, after what was originally planned to be only a holiday in New Zealand.
Mrs Tacchini said the couple, from Buenos Aires, had always talked about moving to Australia or New Zealand, and settled on the latter because of the number of jobs available for experienced chefs.
Those opportunities, as well as Oamaru’s small-town appeal, were the major factors that led to the couple’s move here.
"Basically, we felt that it was a really good place to raise a family," Mr Tacchini said.
He has worked as a chef at Northstar, Riverstone Kitchen and Fleur’s Place in Moeraki.
A couple of months ago, he spent time working with top chef Michael Meredith at Meredith’s, in Auckland, widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the country.
"I approached him and we got talking," Mr Tacchini said.
"The whole idea was to go to a really good place and try to learn a few ideas and techniques and bring them to Oamaru."
In Cucina 1871, to be renamed Cucina, the couple had realised a lifelong dream.
"We always thought one day if we could own our own restaurant, it would be this one because we have always loved this corner.
"I’ve always been a chef and it’s a natural progression. If you’re a chef and don’t want to own your own restaurant, you should change your profession."
While it had been a stressful time, it was "really exciting".
Mrs Anderson said she had always hoped the couple would be willing to take over the restaurant.
"We always thought Pablo would like to have his own place and we had always wanted to give him the first opportunity to take this place over," she said.
"It probably happened a bit sooner than we thought, but that’s the way it worked out."
Mrs Stevens and Mrs Anderson still own the building, which they bought from the North Otago Club, and would be on hand to help Mr and Mrs Tacchini get settled.
As for changes, along with dropping "1871" from the restaurant’s name, a new menu would be introduced from today and some of the decor would be changed, Mr Tacchini said.
The menu would not be strictly Italian.
"We’ll have a mix of cultures but we want to continue having things like our own handmade pasta."
- Oamaru Mail