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Beach dreams . . . Yanina and Pablo Tacchini with their children Bella (10), Rocco (7) and Ian (13) at the former Portside premises, where they will be opening a new family-friendly restaurant. PHOTO: RACHEL WYBROW

Four years to the day since Yanina and Pablo Tacchini took charge at Cucina restaurant, they sealed the deal on restaurant number two.

The couple will be leasing the building which formerly housed Portside restaurant, but will be starting “from scratch, a new concept restaurant”, Mrs Tacchini said.

Opening a second restaurant had been on the Tacchinis’ radar since last year, but they were unsure of whether Oamaru was the right place to do it.

“We were looking at Lake Tekapo and Queenstown. We were really worried about high school with Ian [their eldest son, who has autism]. We didn’t know what to do.”

But Waitaki Boys’ High School was going well for Ian, and so Oamaru was looking like the best option for the family-focused couple.

“Oamaru had been growing so nicely with tourism back then – we were having the best year ever, last year.

“Then all this happened [Covid-19] . We didn’t know what to do.”

The Portside building, which is owned by Oamaru businessman Brian de Geest, was formerly leased by fellow restaurateur Sally-Ann Donnelly, and with a customer base made up massively of tourists, it didn’t reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown. This helped the Tacchinis make their decision.

“It’s just really hard to see such a beautiful building there, with so much potential, empty. And Oamaru is lacking a more family-oriented restaurant, where you can just let the kids go and run to the beach and use the outdoor area. So we decided it was time to do something like that.”

Mr Tacchini said he wanted Cucina to continue being their high-end restaurant.

“This is not the same. It’s a different market and this will give the option of a really good-quality meal, but more family oriented.”

Mrs Tacchini said the plan was for “fast and simple and fresh, and also lots of seafood”.

“We want to be that Sunday restaurant that Oamaru is lacking. Somewhere more approachable and casual, but really trendy.

“If you don’t feel like sitting down for dinner, you can have fish and chips and ice cream and go to the beach, you know?

“We want to make it quite flexible for families and all kinds of customers.”

The interior will be completely refurbished, with an emphasis on utilising the outdoors and beach. The goal was to be up and running the first week in December.

The couple, who were born and raised in Argentina, were still looking to incorporate a taste of home in their latest venture – with a Spanish name, which they were keeping under wraps for now – and also selling home-made gelato, along with some European additions to the menu.

Preparing for this move, the couple had taken a step back from Cucina for the past six months.

Mr Tacchini said they had a “really, really good team, which allowed us to prepare, to create time to spend on this new project. We will run both”.

They envisaged the new restaurant would create eight to 10 new jobs.

“It’s not much, but at this time, it’s good.”

The couple knew it was not the ideal time to be opening a business which relied on the tourism trade, but they were optimistic.

“We just have to hold on tight, and focus on the local market. We are grateful to be here.”