Brunetti’s Giorgio Angele is a Melbourne culinary juggernaut

Melbourne owes Giorgio Angele’s wife, Julie, a debt of gratitude.  Had the 23-year-old Giorgio, a pastry chef in town for the 1956 Olympic Games as part of the Italian team’s 10-strong culinary squad, not met and fallen in love with Julie, he would have returned to Italy after the Games and Melbourne would never have experienced the Italian pastry juggernaut that is Brunetti.

Giorgio is something of a juggernaut himself. The single-store Carlton business he bought from his friend Piero Brunetti in 1991 is now an empire that’s become an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s fabric.

A sixth store (in the international terminal at Melbourne Airport) is due to open next year but, when we meet, Giorgio’s focus is on Brunetti’s just-opened 300-seat behemoth on Flinders Lane, featuring a coffee bar, cake and gelato counter, dining section and aperitif bar. There’s also an on-site coffee roaster and a wood-fired pizza oven.

“I’ve been working from seven in the morning to four in the afternoon to get the store ready,” says the tall, upright 84-year-old, hard at it in Brunetti’s Brunswick pastry kitchen.

“People say to me: why don’t you stop working? And I say: what am I going to do, stay home and watch television? I have never stopped working. When you like something and you do it with passion then the job is not hard.”

Giorgio’s not kidding about working. He began helping out in his uncle’s pasticceria and gelataria in Rome when he was eight (“just in the mornings and afternoons – I had to go to school too, you know”).

 

Photo: Greg Briggs

Photo: Greg Briggs

 

His cousin, one of the top pastry chefs in Rome, taught him to make pastry so well that Giorgio won the competition to be part of the culinary team travelling to Melbourne with the Olympic athletes.

He liked Melbourne, but it was a very different place to Rome. “We went into the city after 5pm and there was nobody around – everybody had gone home and we thought something terrible must have happened,” he laughs.

After the Olympics, Giorgio decided to stay in Australia, despite having a ticket home. He spent a few months in Sydney helping at a mate’s cake shop before returning to Melbourne to marry Julie.

He bought a small cake shop in Kew but business was slow; he knew he needed to head into Lygon Street to sell his Italian pastries in the heart of Little Italy. “I didn’t have money to buy a car so I packed the pastries into pasta boxes and took them with me on the bus,” he says. “People would get on and wonder where the smell was coming from.”

The plan worked and Giorgio was soon able to buy a car and then a shopfront and small pastry factory in Richmond.

It was during this time that he and Julie had their five sons, two of whom, Yuri and Fabio, now work in the business, overseeing its local and international expansion (there’s a Brunetti in Singapore) and turning the Carlton store into a huge bustling, Roman-style flagship.

Despite the expansion, Brunetti has kept its integrity and that has a lot to do with Giorgio. “It’s all about quality, service and a passion for the work,” he says. “That’s the reason people love Brunetti and come from all over Australia to visit us. There’s the same quality and the service that we’ve been doing for 33 years. It’s a family thing and families come here because of that.”

Brunetti’s new store is at 250 Flinders Lane, city.

 

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