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New Italian restaurant coming to Orange

May 30, 2023

La Milano's home is the former Zona restaurant on Summer Street. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

A new Italian restaurant is slated to open in Orange within four to six weeks.

The former Zona restaurant site on Summer Street will launch as the Italian eatery La Milano, named after the northern Italian city.

Maninder Singh (left) and Rubandeep Singh at La Milano. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

The two men behind the restaurant - Orange’s Maninder Singh and Rubandeep Singh (no relation) - formerly worked at Italian restaurant Pellegrini’s in the Village on Summer.

A high quality trough, Zona closed in late 2022 after struggling to find enough staff.

Manager Maninder Singh said he had been keeping an eye on the site following the restaurant’s closure, and when a sign advertising it for lease appeared, he contacted the agent Gary Blowes.

“I used to walk past, and a lot of locals would talk about Zona, and how it was a really good place to come and eat,” Maninder said.

“When it closed I thought maybe they would sell it or lease it. When the opportunity came to lease it, we had to take it.”

The lease is for five years, with an option for another five.

The La Milano kitchen. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Sitting inside the restaurant, you wouldn’t know it had been out of action for six months. It’s bright and airy, and Maninder plans to retain the blue paint scheme and white chairs and tables from the Zona era.

“Blue and white is a good combination, it’s very relaxing,” he said. “It’s not a colour that gives you a headache, it’s a nice homely feeling.”

La Milano will serve wood-fired pizza, pasta and a range of seafood, meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Head chef Rubandeep said some pasta, including gnocchi, ravioli and lasagne, would be made in-house. The pizzas will also be made from scratch in the kitchen.

Fruit, vegetables and wine will be sourced locally, and importers in Sydney will supply La Milano with Italian goodies.

Despite the restaurant’s main floor and kitchen being in good shape, the Singhs there was still considerable investment required to bring their vision to life.

“So many things involved - point of sale system, website, suppliers, other technical stuff,” Rubandeep said.

A logo will be completed this week.

Maninder added: “We want to give good quality food and to do that you have to spend a lot of money. Also with staff, that's the biggest problem in Orange; it's a big investment as you have to give them good pay and look after them.”

The lush lawn at the front of the property will remain as is, but Maninder said it will be decorated with lighting and have more signage.

The main dining room. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

He said that while locals knew Zona was a restaurant, visitors may not have been aware, as it could have been mistaken for a private house.

Rubandeep said he was taught to cook Italian food during more than a decade working in Italian restaurants in Sydney.

Maninder is from Pune in India, between Mumbai and Satara on India's west coast. He said there were several varieties of Italian food available when he was growing up.

He worked at the Sydney Hilton as a food and beverage supervisor and studied hospitality management at Sydney’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Institute.

Orange has the Italian restaurants Pellegrini’s and Avido, but Maninder said he doesn’t see them as competition.

“Once people have dined in our restaurant, we know they will be back because of the quality of the food,” he said.

“It’s not about the competition, it’s about satisfying your guests’ taste buds. For me, sometimes I feel like the most incredibly hard job is to satisfy someone’s taste buds.

“If someone is happy with the food, that’s the best thing. We will have quality, and people will come.”

Asked how the boss of Pellegrini’s, Giovanni Convertino, took the news of his departure, Maninder said: “He was pretty supportive. He said it's a new chapter in your life. He gave us some nice advice, because he’s opened restaurants, he has more experience.”

Neither had been to Milan, but plans were afoot.

“It’s my dream to go there,” said Maninder.

Rubandeep has a relative who lived in Italy and is now running Italian restaurants in Germany. Good advice has been forthcoming, but he still felt as if he needed to set foot in Milan.

“We want to go and experience it,” said Rubandeep.

The restaurant will employ five or six chefs, and the same number of wait staff.

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