From the farm to your plate
A YOUNG Bundaberg couple have decided to take on the restaurant world, re-opening Viva Italia on Bourbong St and bringing with them a little bit of local farming knowledge.
Sarah Martin and Michael Emerick, 24, said it was the work on their family farm, RedRidge Produce at Alloway, that prompted their business decision to take over the restaurant.
"In June, we came by to get something to eat and realised the restaurant was shut," Miss Martin said.
"Michael had the idea to buy it and have the restaurant up and running while also selling local produce in the cafe section."
The Emerick family have been farming for more than 30 years, growing vegetables in the Lockyer Valley and then moving to Bundaberg 20 years ago to grow tomatoes and watermelons.
"About 10 years ago we built a greenhouse and now we are the only people who grow figs 12 months a year," Mr Emerick said.
The couple took over Viva Italia restaurant in partnership with Mr Emerick's parents, Gayle and Mark Emerick, in October this year and provide a modern Italian and Australian menu for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
"We grow avocados, figs and cherry tomatoes and we use them all in the kitchen. Whatever we don't grow we source from local growers," Mr Emerick said.
"We have a big emphasis on all local produce. Not just our stuff. We use local meats, seafood, Gayndah beef and more," Miss Martin said.
The couple plan to have the cafe section of the restaurant operating early next year and will open it to the public as a farm market, a centralised version to the Alloway Farm Market that they already manage at RedRidge Produce.
"About two years ago we started a farm market on the side of the road at our farm. We used to have a bin of tomatoes and then thought we would move things to inside the shed," Mr Emerick said.
"We decided to put other produce in there from around the region. It took off. Now we have nearly everything there. We made it into a bit more of a business rather than a side of the road thing."
Miss Martin said their plan was to have the same great, fresh local produce also available to people at Viva Italia.
"We want to centralise it a bit more but keep the Alloway one going. We will be selling all fresh produce and deli items like olive mixes, cheeses, jams, relishes and flowers all from the restaurant," she said.
"Whatever we can't buy local, we will source it from as close by as possible."
"We will also have coffee, sandwiches, gourmet salads and more. Easy and fresh food on the go."
If you would like to buy fresh, local produce from Miss Martin and Mr Emerick, the Alloway Farm Market can be found on Goodwood Rd, just opposite the Alloway Country Club.