Because they’re my kind of office. High end pubs and neighbourhood restaurants have merged my love of seriously good food and design with the artform of being hospitable.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
You will become an expert at the sourcing and purchase of A and B grade demonstration kitchen equipment. And for balance, you will become an expert in the sourcing and purchase of A and B grade black truffles.
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Have always admired the creativity and energy from Australian setups including Maurzio Terzini (Icebergs, Sydney) and Grossi by Guy Grossi (Florentino, Melbourne). Then there’s Vasilis, an old Greek chap who runs my favourite restaurant called Kiki’s Taverna under an olive tree in Agios Sostis, Mykonos. He gives you cold Greek retsina while you wait for a table in the heat. Best pork chop in your life.
What motivates you?
Remembering one time a lady missed her reservation and a guest couldn’t make it. She arrived flustered and apologetic. I poured her a glass of wine and sent up a pasta, on us. She burst into tears (good tears) and said nobody had ever done anything like that for her before. That’s when I knew the industry I was in was so special.
What keeps you up at night?
Thinking about how many other people in the industry are being kept up right now by the strains and stresses facing the sector.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Always remembered what a creative director mate once told me…’Nobody cares about your brand the way you think they might. They care about their own world just as you do about yours. If we do bother them then it’s our responsibility to make it worth us disturbing them. Some of this sentiment I still use today.
What time do you wake up?
Coffee or tea?
As an Australian with Italian heritage, it’s coffee. Good coffee has been a big part of my life and like food has caused many a heated family discussion.
How do you let off steam?
What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Carbonara alla Christian – my eldest brother’s take on the classic.
Sunday roast at my local, The Lore of The Land, with my partner Kamil.
What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Booked a trip to Japan while drunk. Best intoxicated decision I ever made.
What are you currently reading?
The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton.
What boxset are you currently watching?
The Crown. Mainly for the lunch scenes at the Palace.
Worst business decision?
An electric pasta extruder. This thing would churn out some pretty nice fresh pasta, but it was so temperamental and had to keep ordering parts from Milan to fix the bloody thing. It went down at least once a fortnight, right when we needed it most. We now make pasta the old fashioned way with a machine, handle and a knife.
Best business decision?
A rebrand. My restaurant was called Bernardi’s. After five years of operating with a solid reputation we took the rather counter-intuitive decision to change the name to The Italian Greyhound and refresh the concept. This allowed us to re-focus and get back to what it is that we did so well. It also stopped me climbing the walls because we had the family name above the door. Turns out our regulars love it. They’re always a good barometer.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Never underestimate the ability of creativity to add value and relevance to your business. That and the importance of developing and inspiring those that actually make your business.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Attitudes. As in bad ones. Especially in places that are in a privileged though usually temporary position of not having to earn and fight for every customer that comes through the door - like I had to do at the beginning of my journey. It’s not cool and makes you look stupid.
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Bernardi studied Creative Advertising at London's RMIT University before helping to launch the Cubitt House pub group as co-founder and creative director. His career has also seen him co-found Open House London, as well as work freelance as an advertising creative director across various portfolios. In 2015, he launched Italian restaurant Bernardi's in partnership with his brother Gabriel and Barry Hirst, which operates under his Dining Theory group. Last year, Bernardi's was rebranded as The Italian Greyhound.