Costa D’Oro is a rarity, a restaurant that has survived the changing culture of the city, catering for tourists and dual city dwellers, supported by locals most of all.
I have memories of the old Surfers, in particular of the heart of Surfers. We would spend weekends and holidays here, my memories including days drinking juice from coconuts in The Shell Bar on the corner of Cavill Avenue and dining in Surfers at Froggy & Woggy’s or Costa D’Oro in Orchid Avenue.
A lot may have changed in Surfers, but thirty-four years later, Costa D’Oro still occupies the same site, one of the few places to have survived the ravage of economic times and changes to dining culture.
A locals’ favourite, on any day of the week Costa D’Oro is brimming with happy customers. It’s the place for couples, family gatherings and celebrations, with diners spilling out onto the alfresco area fronting the street, large umbrellas providing shelter from the heat of the sun.
So, what is their secret of success?
Firstly, it’s traditional Italian, a reflection of the Italy we know and love. The décor speaks tradition on every front, sporting not only an Italian flag but also the colours of Italy together with photos of the restaurant’s foundations forming a mural on the restaurant’s front wall: owners Nuccia and Michael Fusco with chefs Jeff and Hans who have been working with them for the entire 34 years, their other chefs including Head Chef Giani Forte for at least twenty years. They feature on the ‘wall of history’ together with the icons of Italian cinema.
Italian food is always popular as one of the comfort foods of the nation, and Costa D’Oro’s food is no exception. We dine on Aussie favourites with few changes despite the passage of time: tender crumbed and fried Calamari, Scallops in the shell with a creamy cheese and garlic topping, grilled Moreton Bay bugs in a lemon and garlic sauce, the best-selling signature Fettuccini d’Oro with prawns, bacon and spinach in a creamy garlic sauce, and Scaloppini Gamberi, decadently rich, its tender veal smothered in a brandy, wine and creamy garlic sauce topped with king prawns.
“It’s about keeping things simple but top quality,” Nuccia tells us. “We have had the same menu for 34 years. There have not been many changes, with about 80% staying the same. Pizza was added about twenty years ago, and seafood after that because our customers wanted it. It’s all about consistency, using the best ingredients we can with everything freshly made,” she says.
Accompanying the food are beverages such as wine and cocktails. It’s all about balance, and we find Moretti beer’s light acidity a great match for the food. Little wonder that Costa D’Oro boasts the biggest sales of Moretti in Queensland.
One of the most crucial factors in Costa D’Oro’s success, though, are the owners themselves. As the late Tony Velado once told us, ‘It’s all about the show’. Dining is about experience, showing off a wealth of culture, a warm ‘embrace’ of welcome, and making the patron feel like ‘a king for a day’.
When we visit, one reason why Costa D’Oro is thriving is immediately clear: its warm welcome. There to greet us is Nuccia. Bubbly and gregarious, she’s the life of the restaurant with patrons stopping in on their daily walk just to say hello. Nuccia greets them by name, posing for a photo with regulars and asking them about health and families.
“You need to have a passion for the restaurant industry to survive,” Nuccia tells us. “To me this is not work because I love it so much,” she says, her face alight with joy.
“If a customer doesn’t walk away saying ‘I loved my experience, the food and service’ then we are doing something wrong.” Thankfully those people are few and far between.
Instead, Costa D’Oro stands for its namesake, the Gold Coast and its lifestyle, celebrating the culture our post-war Italian immigrants brought here.
Good food. Good friends. Good life. What else is there?
Costa D’Oro Italian Restaurant, 27 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise
Ph: 07 5538 5203 Open Mon – Sun 11.30am – 10pm
NOTE: Lunch Special daily: 11.30am – 4pm $15 all pizzas and pasta; $20 all scallopini and chicken. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Costa D’Oro.