Fresh Fish, Chips and Pizza from Babinda's home-grown chef.
Television cooking shows such as My Kitchen Rules have shown us that there are many outstanding cooks among us, just ordinary people living their lives who love being in the kitchen. They aren’t trained chefs, and the only cooking experience they have is their love and enthusiasm for food and making delicious dishes.
And they are everywhere, not just in the big cities.
Some enjoy hosting dinner parties at home, while others, like Tony Lanzi in Babinda, have taken their enthusiasm and love of cooking to the next level.
Tony, a qualified builder, ex-military officer, skipper of fishing boats such as the Northern Conquest Charters, former scuba diver, volunteer with Angel Flight and a foodie all his life, combined his love of good food with his work experience to take the leap recently and start his own business – FNQ Fresh Fish Babinda.
“I’ve been passionate about cooking all my life, especially being Italian,” he says. “My dad loves fishing, and I’ve always been around fishing and love it.”
So much so that Tony changed his vocation as a private commercial fisherman, which he had worked at for years, to become a restaurant owner and cook whose aim was to supply fresh local fish to the general public every day, cooked in a variety of ways.
The fish he cooks and sells in his shop is always freshly caught by him or some of his team a few times a week. Among the seafood delicacies he has available are red emperor, coral trout, sweet lip, small-mouth nannygai and cod, just to name a few.
“Every fish you can name that comes from our region, we get them in,” says Tony, who adds he also has prawns, mussels and oysters on his seafood menu.
While fish can be battered, crumbed or grilled to the customer’s request, he also sells the fish retail so customers can cook at home. While he uses his mixed reef fish recipe for his fish burgers and fish and chips, he’ll also happily cook whatever piece of fish his customers request.
And there’s more to seafood at this family-owned-and-operated business. His menu items, which also feature a selection of dinner, lunch and breakfast fare (including such dishes as eggs benedict, bacon-and-egg muffins and smashed avocado with feta cheese) are all made with ingredients sourced from local producers.
“Our meat and mince patties come from Babinda Meat Mart,” he says. “The owner has his own farm, and the meat is all fresh, straight off the farm. Our buns come from the Babinda Bakery, and all the fruit and vegetables are from local farms.”
That fresh philosophy continues on to the menu, where every item ordered is made fresh. Thanks to the open-kitchen plan of the venue, guests can see their food being personally prepared.
Being Italian, the opportunity to buy a pizza oven was one he couldn’t refuse.[MW2]
“I’m Italian and love pizzas,” he says. “My dad taught me how to cook pasta from scratch, so we make all our dough ourselves.
“You can’t rush making the dough. You need to make it the day before to rest.”
While the pizza menu features a range of meat and vegetable options, it also has one menu item that is quite unusual on most pizza menus – a dessert pizza.
“Dessert pizzas are pretty unique here, but I used to eat a lot of them when I worked in New Zealand,” Tony says. “We just have the one dessert pizza now on the menu.”
Made with the same base as the savoury pizzas, the dessert offering also has honey, kiwi fruit and seasonal berries along with some chocolate that melts through it, then served with cream and ice cream on top.
“It’s really nice and very decadent,” Tony says. “Dessert pizzas are unique to our region, but this one is quite popular.”