Sink your teeth into pizza and pasta at Varsity Lakes’ brand-new bistro Oscar Italia
Keeping occupied during various COVID-related lockdowns has manifested in some pretty unlikely hobbies to pass time (focaccia, anyone?). For Leisa and her husband Shaun, who found themselves separated by border closures for nine long months, they passed the time apart by planning a restaurant they hoped to open one day. As it turns out, they were pretty good at it – so when the restrictions lifted and the pair were (finally) reunited, they had all of the necessary building blocks in place to turn their hypothetical plans into a reality. The only thing that was missing was the perfect location, and as luck would have it, the perfect place was right in front of their eyes. Varsity Lakes, say hello to Oscar Italia …
Pre-COVID, Leisa and Shaun owned a successful security business that was based in the Brooklyn @ Varsity building. Every day for an entire year they walked past the vacant commercial space at the front of the building (formerly occupied by Cru Cafe) hoping that someone would do something amazing there. Having already committed to the neighbouring space (that’s another story for another day), the landlord asked if they would be interested in taking on another tenancy. At first, their answer was no, but after giving it some thought they decided that Varsity Lakes was missing a place where families could congregate in between school pick-up and extra-curricular activities, businesses could host work lunches and locals could wander down for a bite and a beer after work. And so, the first-time restaurant owners went all in … again. Oscar Italia is a nod to Leisa’s favourite poet Oscar Wilde and is a community-focused eatery for pizza, pasta and budget-friendly dining. The venue’s head chef (who has previously worked with Jamie Oliver) has crafted a menu that could broadly be described as a ‘people pleaser’ with something for everyone, including those with very specific dietary requirements. Although Oscar Italia is envisaged as a casual eatery – it has seriously upped the ante when it comes to its fare.
Whilst some venues cram diners in like sardines, Oscar Italia boasts the benefit of space. There are 80 seats scattered across various areas inside, each offering a slightly different vibe. Those in the mood for a casual bite can pull up a seat on the mezzanine, while inside, it’s a little fancier – with cosy velvet couches that are perfect for overdue catch-ups with the ladies, a semi-private space neighbouring the kitchen as well as two prized hanging chairs. Eventually, Oscar Italia will spill out into an incredible atrium that is surrounded by lush vertical greenery and provide seating for 60 more – providing the perfect backdrop for events. Although this is Leisa and Shaun’s first foray into hospitality ownership, the duo has acquired plenty of transferrable skills including a particular focus on customer service. The restaurant deliberately employs a mix of experienced staff as well as students from the nearby school who are looking for their first part-time job – it’s their way of investing back into the community they are a part of. Oscar Italia offers ‘Happy Hour’ for kids, where hungry teens can curb that 2:30–3:30 pm starvation with a slice of pizza and a milkshake for $10. Come nighttime, the vibe shifts into a kind of low-key wine bar with live music and a selection of drops from Australia and abroad.
Oscar Italia is open now. Slide over to our Stumble Guide for opening times. While you’re there, keep your peepers peeled for Leisa and Shaun’s second venture The Brooklyn Wine + Tapas, which is set to open across the corridor in a matter of weeks. As always, we’ll bring you all of the delicious details as they come to light so watch this space.
The Stumble Guide is our comprehensive Gold Coast dining guide with more than 870 places to eat, drink, shop and play.