CLOSE your eyes and imagine yourself by the Mediterranean shore – sun shining bright, glistening waters, and a plate of culinary delights awaiting you.

Now imagine you don’t actually need to travel thousands of kilometres to be able to devour the said “culinary delights”.

Creswick-based Italian Chef Donatello Pietrantuono is leading the kitchen at Billy’s Bistro and Bar in Ballarat where he and his team create and serve up delectable Mediterranean-inspired eats on the daily.

Where possible, the bistro’s menu offerings make use of fresh, local produce with a range of local wines also on offer.

Having been raised in and around commercial kitchens in Italy, Chef Dona brings a wealth of experience and talent to the Billy’s team.

Hailing from Florence, he made a name for himself in Italy’s a la carte scene before moving to Australia in 2009.

“I had my own restaurant in Florence but I got burnt out so I grabbed the world map and decided to move as far away as possible,” Chef Dona says.

“I came to Melbourne and said to myself that I wouldn’t work for at least three months but then a few weeks later I had a job!”

Since moving to Melbourne, Chef Dona has spent his time working the metropolitan food scene in a variety of different restaurants before moving to the country and taking on a slightly different role at Creswick’s RACV Resort (formerly Novotel Forest Resort).

Now, the food guru has taken pride of place at Billy’s and also has a separate venture as the co-owner and head chef at Ballarat’s newest authentic Italian food destination – Carboni’s.

“Carboni’s is about uncomplicated Italian food,” Dona says.

“The less you do to food, the better it tastes and that’s absolutely true. Food in Italy is minimalist and the ingredients are basic but delicious and that’s what I try and achieve.”

Having met the love of his life in Melbourne, Chef Dona now also has a one-year-old daughter and has well and truly made Australia home.

“What really blows me away about Australia is the space here. There’s so much energy around,” he said.

“Italy is a beautiful place but only for a holiday. You don’t really go and live there. It’s very hard.

“I love my job. It’s what gets me going everyday and I love waking up in the morning knowing I’m going to spend time with my team.”

Billy’s Bistro and Bar is located at Mercure Ballarat and Convention Centre and Carboni’s Pizza Kitchen is located at Eureka Street, Ballarat.

by DELLA VREELAND for Hello Ballarat.

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