Bellissimo! Bocca Italian

Image source: Photographer Megan Gill

Italian cuisine has a reputation for being one of the world’s best and soon to be the most popular and sought-after, will be Bocca, discerning Helen Flanagan attests. 

What’s not to love? The delicious combinations of tantalising tastes and indulgent treats such as pasta, pizza and desserts are balanced by fresh, simple, and – believe it or not – healthy authentic flavours that speak volumes about how well Italians know their cuisine. 

The eighth establishment after Rice Boi, Spero, Market Bistro, Giddy Geisha, Miss May, Piggyback and the Eudlo General Store, credited to the remarkable hospitality identity Tony Kelly, is Bocca – the first true Italian in the group. 

The concept for Bocca, (bóc·ca), the Italian word for ‘mouth’, came from Market Bistro manager Luke Stringer and his wife Ash, after a holiday in Tuscany. 

“We live in Wurtulla and were lamenting the lack of great pizza or pasta,” recalled Luke, who began his career in Noosa Heads, and managed numerous well-known restaurants in Melbourne and Brisbane. “We knew a site in Bokarina and hatched the plan.
I called Harry Lilai (Market Bistro executive chef) to get his blessing and support, pitched it to Tony the next day, and the rest is history. 

The trio are now business partners with Harry and Luke the driving forces behind Bocca Italian, a refined casual dining experience for up to 150 guests, including a 14-seat private dining room. 

“Bocca will have the same friendly professional service as Market Bistro but with a strong Italian flavour,” Luke said.

Bocca’s overall aesthetic is simple clean lines, accented by earthy-toned tiles, timber and burnt orange. 

Market Wine Store, an integral part of Market Bistro will also be an valuable add-on to Bocca and will continue the theme of independent ownership, quality spirits, and harder-to-find smaller wine producers from around Australia, including a selection of Australian-made Italian varietals.

With an Italian mother, Albanian father, six siblings and an enormous extended family, is Melbourne-born executive chef Harry Lilai. His 30-year enviable reputation includes the famous 250-seat Cecconi’s at Crown Casino in Melbourne, later Cecconi’s in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as Greca at Brisbane’s Howard Smith Wharves, Menzies at Rialto, Byblos at Prahran, Baby in Richmond and the award-winning Town Hall Hotel in Fitzroy. 

Harry says his food is all about generosity and depth of flavours, “being inspired by family recipes, sharing a love for the Italian-style shared table experience, and having incredible local suppliers as well as traditional Italian providores from Melbourne and Brisbane. 

“We have imported a stone-based Moretti pizza oven from Italy and after a 24 to 48-hour fermentation process, hand stretched by two-gun pizzaiolos, adding a mix of a Napoli and a Roma base, the pizzas with a cornicione puff edge and thin crusty bottom, will be fantastico.” 

Similarly, Harry’s famous Osso Bucco from his days at Cecconis; Polpette aka meatballs with rosemary and flatbread, are considered so good they’ll make you sigh, while his tiramisu is arguably better than most Nonnas. 

The final ingredient to this venue’s success will undoubtedly be Tony’s business nous as chef-turned-restaurateur of some of the Sunshine Coast’s most outstanding venues. 

Anything cooked up by these heroes of hospitality is sure to be bellissimo!

About the Author /

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Noosa’s sophisticated charm, vibrant food culture and the magnetism of a subtropical paradise surrounded by national parks, inveigled Helen’s manic world and flipped it on its side. She pursues the good life with gusto, instinctively understanding the joys of travel, the art of story-telling, a candid review and surviving another reno whilst thriving on the motto Live Laugh Love!

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