As the Carney brothers continue to grow their impressive Gemelli empire, ORM headed to where it all began in Broadbeach to talk authentic Italian cuisine, business success — and to meet the Gold Coast local who the brothers turn to for advice.
When Gemelli opened its doors five years ago, the dream was to create the best, most authentic Italian trattoria on the Gold Coast. The vision was to bring down-to-earth informal dining rather than haute cuisine — and to present a first-class traditional menu.
The three Carney brothers (twins James and Alex, 26, and big brother Paul, 30, who were masterminding the new venture, knew precisely who to turn to. Ross Guidice is executive officer to City of Gold Coast Council CEO Dale Dickson.
Importantly, Ross, like the Carney brothers, has one Italian parent and a strong sense of Italian culinary heritage.
“We actually met here at Gemelli in Broadbeach,” Ross tells ORM when we catch up with them all to kickoff our new interview series.
“I remember it well; we were sitting over there [gestures to the side of the restaurant].”
James adds, “Our mum’s twin sister’s son is engaged to Dale — if you can follow that! He introduced us when we’d very first arrived on the Gold Coast.”
Paul: “The whole Gold Coast scene was very different to us, back then, we didn’t know the area or how it worked — let alone the dining scene.”
Ross: “Well, the scene was very different back then. We’re talking about 2014. Nobby Beach was just another area down the highway from Broadbeach; it certainly didn’t have the buzz it has now. The transformation is incredible. The light rail had only just been completed. It’s hard to imagine that now; it’s become so integral to Gold Coast life.”
Paul: “So we were introduced to Ross here at Gemelli and picked his brain about who’s who in the zoo and how it all works. He’s helped us with direction, which way to go with various decisions as they’ve cropped up.”
James: “On a professional level and also personally — we’ve become good friends. We even train together!”
It’s clear from the easy, breezy flow of conversation that these guys are all on the same page. ORM is keen to know whether Ross always thought they were on to a winner with the concept of Gemelli?
“Yes, I always thought it would be successful, but not in my wildest dreams did I think it would be as incredibly successful as they’ve made it,” Ross says, with a broad smile.
“It’s refreshing to see real Italians doing so well. Gemelli is a very authentic restaurant and it’s only going to get increasingly successful the more people continue to move toward a healthier lifestyle.”
Ross was recently in Naples while the Carney brothers were in Sicily; it seems the culinary adventure always leads back to Italy for all of them.
Paul: “People from Sydney and Melbourne don’t think they can get this kind of quality of restaurants here on the Gold Coast. It’s taken some time to shake off the old reputation of the GC and bring it up-to-date. That goes for the dining scene as much as everything else.”
Gemelli recently won silver in the 2019 World Pizza Championship Australia in the gluten-free category.
Paul: “The World Pizza Championship tours the world; Australia is one leg of that tour. Our head chef, Emanuele Malara, won silver in the gluten-free category, which is the result of a lot of hard work. A lot of work goes into creating the recipe and then continually developing it to ensure it’s world-class.”
Ross: “The boys have so much passion. They were really clear in what they wanted to achieve and they’ve continued to keep pouring that passion into their dream. Every time they’ve opened another restaurant, they’ve kept it just as authentic as the first, and the quality is never compromised. They put the same passion into matching the wines with the style of food. Across the Gold Coast, we’re seeing the emergence of fourth- and fifth-generation Italians. There is a sense of pride and we all stick together.”
James laughs: “It’s like a pack mentality — in a good way!”
Ross: “There’s always a good ambience in Gemelli. You can come in here when it’s getting slammed, but the service will never falter. That’s why I love it here so much; the food is incredible, authentic Italian, and whenever you come you get the absolute best quality.”
James: “That was really important to us, to provide that consistency both of food and service. The past few years have also been a process of educating people here on the Gold Coast when it comes to true, traditional Italian food. When we first opened, people would ask if we did a pizza with pineapple on it. The answer was ‘no’, because you don’t put pineapple on pizza in Italy! Same with chicken.”
Paul: “You have to be firm and stick to your word. We could have rolled over and done what people were asking for, but we stuck to our guns because it was vitally important to us to be truly authentic.”
Ross: “The evolution in the Gold Coast dining scene really is remarkable. We’re seeing a growth in Asian fusion restaurants too, which add to our offering. There is great choice on the Coast now.”
James: “When friends are visiting, we can offer a handful of really good options now. That’s good for all of us. It’s not a selfish competition; it’s about raising that bar across the board.”
Ross: “Because Gemelli’s so consistent, it means that when we have important visitors coming from Italy, I can recommend it. Even the location here is spot on.”
James: “Which is funny because when we first opened some people said, ‘You may as well shut your doors right now; there have been seven restaurants here and they haven’t worked’. When we first opened, there wasn’t much of a lunch scene on the Coast and restaurants were looking for street frontage to succeed. Now that’s changed and we’re on the edge of the park, which offers something really special for our guests.”
Ross: “The Commonwealth Games were fantastic at boosting the profile of the Gold Coast. There was massive investment. The Star is just over the road, which has also provided huge investment over recent times…”
Paul: “… and the Convention Centre too.”
The boys are keen to point out that they’re not trained chefs — Gemelli in Broadbeach and all of their restaurants have been built from authenticity.
Paul: “Growing up, we watched our mum and nonna [grandmother] in the kitchen.”
James: “It’s in our blood! Italian food is all about simplicity.”
Paul: “It’s about two or three really key ingredients. We used to arrive home after school and cook for our parents even when we were quite young. I was probably around 10 when I started cooking the tuna pasta, which is on the menu here. We all learnt when we were very young.”
James: “Our parents would often work late. They’d come home from work and we’d have dinner on the table ready for them!”
Paul: “We grew up knowing the importance of how to make good tomato sauce. When we moved to the Gold Coast, we increasingly realised how rare it was to know how to get it right. There are some things you can’t teach, I guess.”
Ross: “When you grow up with an Italian parent, you learn to always have the basic ingredients at home…”
All together they chime in: “Frozen pasta sauce!”
James: “When I was young, I used to get excited when I opened up the freezer thinking there was ice-cream but, no, it would be more frozen pasta sauce — again!”
Ross: “This is why the boys have managed to recreate what they started here at Gemelli Broadbeach. They have a really good offering and they then took that to west Sorrento. Little cantina-style restaurants work.”
Paul: “And Uber Eats has opened up a whole new way of ordering takeaways. When people don’t want to come into the restaurant, or even they call, they can tap away on their phone, and then our authentic Italian pizza is brought to their door!”
Ross: “Uber Eats has been a disruptor in a similar way to what we saw with Uber in travel. It will continue to evolve, I think, like ride shares. There will be other companies coming into the market to shake things up. But there are people who really value the actual experience of dining out. That’s why they love the atmosphere that the boys have managed to create here at Gemelli. Social media has changed things too. You can take one look at James’s social media page and see he’s often out there travelling, posting about food, picking up new ideas and trends. It all contributes to the success of their brand.”
Paul: “It’s important because we want to remain at the front, leading and constantly evolving.”
Ross: “It comes back to that passion. It’s also really good to see all Italian wait staff and cooking staff. There’s a strong bond between us; whether Italians are here on holiday, studying, or any other reason. After all, good Italian food is good Italian food, no matter where in the world you are! I know what I’m going to get on my plate and also how I’m going to feel afterward, especially with pizza. With good pizza you don’t feel bloated.”
Paul: “We have a real focus on good produce too and make sure it’s farmed ethically. We just don’t shout about that or add to the price tag! Our meat is sourced from a local butcher who we’ve used for six years now.”
James: “The Gold Coast is a city, but there’s a real importance placed on building good relationships too. It’s not just about price; it’s about that connection. Frizelles have supported us excellently.”
Ross: “The Gold Coast is pretty special in that regard. There’s a true community connection. It grows each year. There’s a new generation coming through now, lots of mentoring coming through. The Comm Games really were a turning point. There’s a sense of pride.”
Paul: “Other restaurants around here, we all support each other. If we need an ingredient, if we run out, we just call them and they say ‘no worries’. Ross has been fantastic, and Rebecca Frizelle has also given us invaluable advice. That doesn’t happen in Sydney or Melbourne.”
Ross: “Young Professionals Gold Coast is a bunch of young, up-and-coming professionals in the area. They’ve held networking events here at Gemelli. This is when it all ties in together. YPGC have awards, frequent well-known speakers, and offer support to each other. It’s wonderful to see. There’s a strong sense of unity. Perhaps that’s because most of us are from somewhere else; it creates a bond.”
Paul: “Well, I say I’m a Gold Coaster now. We hoped we’d survive the Comm Games and then we’d take it from there. Now, I don’t know why anyone would want to live anywhere else. I love it here; we all do.”
Ross: “When I see the likes of these boys doing so well, going from strength to strength, it’s just amazing.”
It’s not just pizza and training these boys all bond over — it’s coffee too.
Paul: “I lived in London for three years, and the coffee’s awful. They just don’t get it.”
Ross agrees: “Nothing beats Gold Coast coffee!”
Paul: “We’ve had a big year this year; there’s been lots going on for all of us. Now, we’re hungry for 2020!”
Ross: “Italians talk a lot about planting the seed and then watching it grow. That’s what I love about these boys and what they’re achieving with Gemelli. As for 2020, I say it’s all about staying healthy — and enjoying a Mediterranean diet like we love in Italy.”
See the tempting menu here: http://www.gemelliitalian.com.au/menu/
1 Broadbeach: 2/2685 Gold Coast Hwy, Broadbeach
2 Nobby Beach: 2/2247 Gold Coast Hwy, Nobby Beach
3 Sorrento: 4/6 Panitz St, Bundall