Irene Beghini and Donatello Pietrantuono, the pair behind Ballarat East favourite Carboni's, first met in 2009 working at a restaurant within a week of each other arriving in Melbourne from Italy.
They could have never imagined they would find themselves years later deeply entrenched in a regional community with a restaurant of their own, and now, with a range of products expanding to supermarket shelves.
"We were working together ... I was in the kitchen, she was at the front and, you know, love stories between front of house and back of house," Mr Pietrantuono told The Courier with a smile.
"It was getting hard to get a visa and sponsorship in Melbourne so after trying three times failed we decided 'okay let's give it one last shot, let's move regional to Ballarat," Ms Beghini said.
"The initial plan was, we go regional and then we go back to Melbourne but then we moved here and we just loved it," Mr Pietrantuono added.
For the couple, it was the region's landscapes they fell in love with, reminding them of home.
"It's close to the hills and forests and a little bit closer to our origins back home... the space, it's family friendly, easy to get around, a sense of community," Ms Beghini.
Mr Pietrantuono agreed.
"[In Ballarat] you feel part of a group, rather than just like a citizen," he said.
Since Carboni's beginnings seven years ago, their philosophy to 'bring a slice of Italy to Ballarat' has not wavered.
"It was hard at the start because we wanted to do traditional Italian without doing what people saw as traditional, so lasagna and carbonara and stuff - I remember the conversation was like, 'why don't you do if that's what people wanted to do?' and he was like 'no, we're not doing it because it's not the traditional way of doing it'," Ms Beghini said.
"'I want to do something else, keep it traditional and they will come back'."
For Mr Pietrantuono, who helms the Carboni's kitchen, what is on the menu is led by emotion and memories.
"That's how I pick the dishes that go into the menu, if they don't give me any memories or any attachment they're not on the menu," he said.
"It's not a menu that you just Google 'oh yeah, this dish would sell' - it's more about, you know, 'I had that with my Nonna' or I remember going to my cousin's wedding and having that.
"If there is a recollection of a good memory, that's why they go on the menu."
The most recent addition to Carboni's offering is three liqueurs; a limoncello, arancello and limonchilli, which have been released within months of their range expanding to local supermarkets under the label Carboni's Pastificio.
"We have always been doing limoncello as any good Italian restaurant should, you know, the shot at the end of a meal, it's a digestive so it's a common practice," Mr Pietrantuono said.
"He was bored during COVID and was so bored that he came up with like, 'oh, let's just mix lemon and chilli and see what happens', and so he came up with his new recipe. Same again, he was getting so bored and he started doing orange," Ms Beghini said.
The Carboni's namesake, like much else within the business, was considered and selected for its significance.
Raffaello Carboni was an Italian patriot who joined the gold rush to Australia in 1852 and was a leader of non-English-speaking miners who took part in the revolt at Ballarat in 1854.
History buffs can find a plaque dedicated to him not far from the restaurant.
The expansion beyond the restaurant began with homemade gnocchi in the thick of the pandemic years, which grew to a range of fresh pastas, homemade sauces, pizzas, pizza bases, as well as imported wares from Italy available at the pop-up - now permanent fixture - Carboni's Next Door Deli.
"We had a time to stop, we were forced to reflect ... we reset everything and we started to think about what we really love what we're really passionate about and that's how we started with with a deli to produce our own pasta, our own pizza bases, our own sauces, and importing [other] products directly from Italy," Mr Pietrantuono said.
"At the end of the day, we're still doing the same thing since day one - we bring a slice of Italy to Ballarat."
Carboni's Pastificio full range can be found at Ryans IGA Pleasant Park, Midvale and Northway and IGA Creswick.
Products are also stocked at Gordon FarmGate, Campana's Deli, Wilsons Fruit & Vegetables in Mair street and Lucas, and Blakes Family Grocers Daylesford.
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