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Pasquale Di Maio started a gluten-free fish and chip shop in his home suburb Highton, now he’s taking the Aussie favourite upmarket on Pakington Street. The Voice on Pako got a taste of his latest venture in this month’s Q&A.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am 35 years old and I live in Highton with my wife and business partner Millie, 19-month-old son Frankie and dog Simba. I was born in Naples, Italy, so it’s safe to say that my love for good quality food has stemmed from there. I enjoy getting out on the bike and Netflix marathons. I also enjoy cooking, experimenting with new recipes and mastering dishes that my coeliac wife hasn’t been able to enjoy in years.

What makes your store different to the multitude of fish and chip shops in Geelong?
We’re all about fresh food, cold beers and good laughs. I wanted to cater for people with food intolerances and people that just simply didn’t like fish.

Does your family have a history working in the food industry?
My mother-in-law is an exceptional cook but apart from that, there’s no family history.

What got you into the business?
I started off with a fish and chip shop and really enjoyed the work. It was something I felt I could take to the next level and this venture was the next step in accomplishing that dream. I wouldn’t say that opening a shop on Pako has always been the dream but now that I’m in it, I can say that I am absolutely living the dream.

What attracted you to Pakington Street?
I’ve always loved the cosmopolitan atmosphere that Pakington Street has to offer. There’s something on the street for everyone – restaurants, cafes, boutiques, you name it!

What did it take to get your store open for business?
It took us a good six or seven months to get it up and running by the time we fit out our kitchen and got through all the hurdles of setting up a new hospitality establishment. There were definitely lots of unexpected ‘surprises’ along the way but we were grateful to have the expertise of my father-in-law Santo, who did a lot of the hands-on work.

How exciting was it to open the store?
We opened the store on Melbourne Cup Day. There was a long anticipated wait for the opening so we were overly excited on the day. I was thinking, “geez we’ve poured our heart and soul into this venture, I hope our customers are as excited as what we are about our food”. It was a huge relief when our first ‘real’ customer came through the door.

How’s business going?
The locals have been great. It’s definitely been even more fun than I’d initially imagined. Experimenting with different dishes, meeting new people and not knowing what each day will bring has certainly kept me on my toes.

Who would you like to have dinner with, alive or dead?
Marco Pierre White would be my choice, particularly if he’s cooking the dinner. Who wouldn’t want to share food with the godfather of modern cooking?

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