Lost in translation.  Strict new visa requirements leave Hervey Bay's  popular Santini Pizza E Cucina in jeopardy.  Business partner Marion Cudemo has one more chance to pass the english test.
Lost in translation. Strict new visa requirements leave Hervey Bay's popular Santini Pizza E Cucina in jeopardy. Business partner Marion Cudemo has one more chance to pass the english test. Valerie Horton

Bay chef faces deportation over English test

YOU may not have met him in person, but chances are, you love his food.

Italian pastry and pasta chef at Santini Pizza E Cucina, Mario Cudemo has just 11 weeks to convince the Immigration Department he should be allowed to stay Australia.

It all hangs on a tough new English test, which, under revised immigration laws, he must pass.

Until it's sorted, the future of the Esplanade restaurant, which has become somewhat of an institution since opening 12 years ago, remains uncertain.

"It's heartbreaking to think I may not be living in Australia soon," Mario told the Chronicle. "I've lived here for four years with no problems and now I'm fighting to be allowed to stay."

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Mario worked in Victoria as a head chef when he first arrived in Australia just over four years ago on a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa).

He moved to Queensland, when in 2016, Mauro Santini and Paola Fortunato were approved to sponsor him as their chef.

On March 18 this year, the 457 visa was abolished and a Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa introduced.

With it came more stringent English testing. The owners are now pleading with Hinkler MP Keith Pitt to help.

The restaurant had only recently opened up the neighbouring, Santini Gelateria, to showcase Mario's talents.

The possibility of having to close both restaurants isn't out of the question.

"We employ Australians at the restaurant but we needed somebody to teach the Australian chefs how to cook Italian," he said.

"The reason we're doing so well is because of Mario."

Read how these changes affected Mario here