As of 2019, Australia’s food industry was our largest employer, with over 2 million Australians employed in growing, moving, manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing and food service. (Photo: Alessandra D'Angelo with her son Sergio and her daughter Ambra)

Data also shows that in the last two decades, Australian have made eating out a way of life (nearly two thirds of the population over the age of 14 eat out at least once a month). Australians eat out for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. During uncertain economic times, Australians tend to spend less in eateries, but do not sacrifice eating out completely.

Despite this, 46% of the restaurants that were operating in 2014 have now closed. Why? Because the market is changing. And it’s changing so fast that only half the operators can keep the pace.

We have analysed the emerging trends and found a small establishment in Fitzroy North which is reflecting a few of them. Curious? Well, patience is a virtue! Let’s first identify these trends.

The Australian foodservice market is vibrant, dynamic and diversified by a plethora of cuisines across many independent outlets. Victoria, in particular, offers a unique dining scene reminiscent of Southern Europe, thanks to the massive presence of Greeks and, of course, Italians.

Increasingly conscious consumers are requesting more attention towards sustainability, a strong focus on wellbeing and the desire to experiment with local interesting food and beverages.

Technology has also dramatically changed customer expectations and raised the bar in terms of the type of engagement customers consider normal. Technology is also increasingly disrupting the hospitality industry as food delivery services continue to grow.

In this apparently destabilising scenario, there is an oasis of tranquillity called Osteria Italiana.

Osteria Italiana in Fitzroy North, Melbourne - Photo: Wide Shut Photography

Run by Alessandra, an energetic, smiling woman from Palermo, Osteria Italiana gathers with it all the answers to this newly shaped market.

When Alessandra started her business (back then called Maccaroni Osteria Italiana), she couldn’t predict such a metamorphosis. In a few years, Melburnians’ lifestyle and dietary habits have changed so much and so quickly that only a few have been able to rapidly adapt and conceive radically new menu designs.

But what really placed her into the vegan and wellbeing stream, was her desire to please and satisfy her kids’ needs.

‘Both are vegetarian,’ she says, ‘and moving to Australia they soon started to miss the Italian flavours they were used to at home in Sicily. That’s then when I started to get passionate about the vegan and vegetarian alternatives to Italian traditional meals. But I couldn’t find anything that pleased me or their palate, so I started to study new solutions, looking for out of the ordinary ingredients and mixing them in an innovative way. Yes, my restaurant’s offering is the result of my desire, as a mum, to feed and please my children!’

So it would seem that Millennials really are driving the changes in the hospitality industry.

Along with this determination, her profound knowledge of the Italian traditional cuisine and a life spent satisfying the needs of a more and more sophisticated clientele made the change not only possible, but unique in its outcome.

All the dishes included in the menu are Italian. Their recipes are deeply rooted into the history of the most original version, but they have been shaped around the modern concept of healthier nutrition.

Alessandra’s fine sensibility and ability to create solutions respectful of every possible dietary requirement is impressive. All her recipes, like the vegan carbonara, the vegan fried egg, the low fodmap eggplant rolls filled with pasta, the gluten free gnocchi alla Trevigiana are practically eligible to be covered by Trademark for their uniqueness and creativity.

But this not all. Alessandra has already ticked the boxes for tradition, innovation, and wellbeing. But the Osteria Italiana is also winning as far as experience and customer engagement are concerned. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, for example you are offered the possibility to pick the napkin representing your dietary requirements. Green for Vegan, Yellow for Gluten Free, Blue for Low FODMAP and Red for the Contemporary. The idea was introduced only recently but has been met with enthusiasm.

Last but not least, Alessandra’s commitment to the environment is impressive. Osteria Italiana has said no to plastic and paper towels, having replaced them with bamboo and sugarcane containers for delivery and take-away meals, recycled toilet paper, reusable cotton towels for the restrooms and fabric napkins at the tables. No more plastic straws, these have been replaced by stainless-steel ones and not even plastic wrap is used in the kitchen.

Once again, Italians have got it right, leading the scene of the evolving food service industry in Melbourne and making of it another opportunity to enhance the legacy of our outstanding traditions and creative skills.