Alma Eatery in Ōmokoroa is a fresh start for hospitality pros Ewelina Large and Marko Velickovic, who are about to launch their first tantalising Italian-inspired dinner menu.
Alma Eatery in Ōmokoroa is a fresh start for hospitality pros Ewelina Large and Marko Velickovic, who have launched their first dinner menu.
Alma Eatery is sitting pretty overlooking Ōmokoroa’s popular beach, where kids play in the little waves, boaties pull in for lunch and people stride it out on The Esplanade.
Alma’s owners are Polish-born Ewelina Large and her life and business partner Marko Velickovic.
They actually used to work just across the road from each other in Mt Maunganui — Ewelina was
the general manager of the much-loved cafe, The General, and Marko was head chef at Italian gem, Alpino. The couple joined forces at the start of 2021 to open Alma Eatery with a daytime menu and locals have been flocking there ever since. Now they’ve stepped things up, opening for dinner.
The food is all made from scratch and Italian inspired, which Marko of course knows all about.
Pasta will be a staple and the opening winter menu will feature classics such as rabbit and wild mushroom lasagne, and cannelloni with Taleggio and truffle, as well as other comfort food, such
as marsala saltimbocca and ossobuco on creamy polenta.
There’ll be pizza, too — a brand spanking pizza oven is ready to go. “The pizza will be hand-stretched, Roman-style,” says Marko. Italian meats and cheeses, including Parma ham, pancetta, gorgonzola and Fontina Val D’Aosta will be used on pizzas and on delicious charcuterie and cheese boards, and the fresh cheese will all be from New Zealand — think stracciatella, burrata and ricotta.
Marko has been around cooking most his life, with a family restaurant in Serbia that’s more than
60 years old, and time spent cheffing in locations such as the Adriatic Coast in Croatia and
the Greek island of Crete. Well versed in utilising the area’s freshest local ingredients, he’s working with many of the Bay of Plenty’s star food producers, including Attila Kovacs from The Hungarian Artisan Co, who is making sausages, Mark Webster from Webster’s Tea and Chaad Lawrence
from Roa Kombucha.
“Our specials will mainly be fish — and it will be line caught by me; I won’t be buying it,” says Marko. He’s hoping for snapper, kingfish and John Dory, perhaps pan-fried or grilled in winter, and seared
in salads or crudo (raw) in warmer months. “When you have something that fresh, you can’t go wrong, you don’t need anything else,” he says.
The couple are putting together a list of Italian and New Zealand wines, plus Peroni on tap.
They’re also refitting the eatery, including new furniture for the deck with that fab view. All the while
working around the buzzing daytime cafe, where they offer crowd-pleasers like the Mr Benedict
with house-made hollandaise; creamy mushies; and Little Manchester burger, as well as ideal dishes
to accompany a glass of wine, such as the Gamberi — king prawns with ginger chilli and herb butter, cherry tomatoes and ciabatta.
And if you’re wondering, the name Alma is a nod to the history of the area. A nearby statue in
the Gerald Crapp Historic Reserve commemorates Reverend Joseph Tice Gellibrand, who was
the first European settler on this peninsula in 1877. He came from Tasmania to farm here, planting many of the exotic trees in the reserve. The sailing vessel he used for transportation was called Alma. “It represented new beginnings for the European settlers coming here, and now Alma is about new beginnings for us,” says Ewelina.