Santini owners Mario and Isabella Barberis. Photo: Alistair Brightman
Santini owners Mario and Isabella Barberis. Photo: Alistair Brightman

Cafe owners battle virus fears and setbacks

TWO years have passed since the Chronicle reported on Mario Cudemo's attempts to stay in Australia to work as the pastry chef of Santini Pasty Shop.

Since that time a lot has changed while a lot has stayed the same for Mario and his partner Isabella Barberis.

Both Mario and Isabella are now part owners of the cafe business and Mario's future in Australia remains uncertain.

Mario is still in the country on a bridging visa while he awaits a decision on his residency from the Federal government.

The couple have spent tens of thousands of dollars on applications and bridging visas to stay in Hervey Bay.

"We love living in Hervey Bay and want to make it our forever home," Isabella said.

It has been a stressful three years for the couple and it has recently been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mario has elderly parents and adult children who reside in Torino, Italy, who have been in isolation due to the coronavirus crisis.

"Fortunately they are all OK at the moment but it has just added to the stress," Mario said.

"They have been in isolation and making sure they follow the government's directions," Mario said.

They keep in regular contact to ensure they remain safe.

The couple sold their house in Italy planning to invest further on the Fraser Coast if they were successful in gaining permanent residency.

"We have plans to buy the cafe outright which we can't do at the moment and look at setting up a similar business elsewhere in the region," he said.

The restrictions on the cafe due to the government restrictions has also added to an uncertain future.

"We are doing takeaways that are well received by our customers but we are still down over 50 per cent of our normal business," Mario said.

Staff have also had to be stood down due to the reduced demand on the cafe.

The hurdles the two proud owners are facing would be enough for others to quit and move on but they are not going anywhere.

"We love Australia and we see our future here in Hervey Bay," Isabella said.

Note: An earlier version of this story was published stating comments about the restaurant.  This has been corrected to state that the business was the cafe.

The Chronicle apologises for any confusion this has caused.