The term 'extended family' usually refers to in-laws, cousins and sometimes even close friends, but new owners of the Orana Hotel, brother and sister team Eddie and Cindy D'Alessandro, bring a whole new meaning to the phrase.
The former Sydney-based Italian duo purchased the Orana Hotel at Blacksmiths in February this year and made the move up to Newcastle, bringing with them their head chef of 15 years, Vince Livia.
For Eddie, the move meant starting fresh in a city where he knew no-one, but over the past few months things have changed quite a bit.
"This is a hotel with plenty of regular locals who I have been getting to know really well," he says.
"It's important to me that I be here onsite and be a part of this community. It's a place where we can all help each other, not unlike a family."
The son and daughter of a successful Sydney-based Italian chef, Eddie and Cindy have a background in running restaurants and decided to make the move into hotel ownership as the next step in their family business.
"My sister and I have been in business together for a long time, owning and operating successful Italian restaurants in Sydney. Our mother was an incredible chef," Eddie says.
"But we were tired of the life down in Sydney and the speed of everything, so we wanted a change. As soon as we came up and looked at this hotel we knew it was the right place for us. Just the feeling when we walked in, we recognised immediately that it offered huge upside potential and that's what we were looking for."
"Just the feeling when we walked in, we recognised immediately that it offered huge upside potential and that's what we were looking for..."
While Eddie jokes his love of beer was a motivating factor for the purchase, the real drawcard for the pair was the potential of the restaurant.
"We have a chef that comes with us pretty much wherever we go in terms of business operation and since being here we've introduced a new menu with Italian meals. We weren't sure at first how the community would react to that, or to us, but it's been overwhelming popular."
The new menu, created by Sicilian head chef Vince Livia, who has 40 years culinary experience, includes authentic Italian pastas, pizza and some pretty special burgers as well.
The new menu, created by head chef Vince Livia, a Sicillian national with 40 years culinary experience, includes authentic Italian pastas, pizza and some pretty special burgers as well...
"We still have some of the original dinner specials, we didn't want to upset anyone by coming in and changing everything, but our burger and pasta nights are a bit different," Eddie says.
"For example, our burger night has 12 burgers from the Godfather to the Hawaiian. Tuesday night is still rump night, but on Wednesdays we have pasta night with 15 different pastas, and the same on schnitty night, we have 12 to choose from. Saturday nights is rib night and soon we will have roast on Sundays as well.
"Food is something I'm passionate about. My sister and I grew up in my mother's restaurant and worked as waiters and waitresses. Mum had the kitchen system down pat and because it was closed on Sundays she insisted the family eat together.
"Our parents both worked long hours, my father was a concreter, and mum would show us what to do and when to put the water on for when Dad got home. It just became part of what we did. So it was a natural progression, and just felt right for Cindy and I, to take over restaurants and lift them to their peak. This is who we are and bringing that to the hotel is just the next stage for us."
"It was a natural progression, and just felt right for Cindy and I, to take over restaurants and lift them to their peak..."
In addition to the food offering, Eddie and Cindy have plans for almost every aspect of the hotel, including renovations that will see the creation of a children's play area adjacent to the restaurant, an outdoor bar at the north end of the venue, and additional undercover areas to the south.
With a number of goals set for themselves, defining success for the pair is based not only on increasing revenue percentage, but also the strength of their relationship with the community they serve.
"Since we've been here we've sponsored a local soccer team and bought 500 water bottles for Valentine Football Club. We were also approached recently by a local family whose one-year-old son has been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. We'll be holding a fundraising day for that family on Saturday, 21 July with all proceeds going to help them.
"Look, we do have a lot of goals but if you ask me what success looks like, I'd have to say I'm already there. I'm a lucky person. I get to come to work at a place I love with people whose company I enjoy. I'm part of a community that's incredibly generous, in fact our regulars were the first ones to ask how they could help with the fundraiser, what they could donate. I'm doing something I love to do, and for that I feel like I am already successful."
Nikki Taylor is the Australian Hotels Association - Newcastle Hotels Representative