After the opening of new Seminyak restaurant, Da Maria, we caught up with Maurice Terzini to divulge deep about his rise to success in the hospitality industry, including his Italian heritage, what inspires projects like Icebergs, and his interest in the fashion world.
Da Maria is the new Italian hotspot that has been the talk of the island, not only for its breath-taking design, which has modernised a 60s Italian courtyard, but more for the man behind it. Maurice Terzini has made quite the name for himself over the years due to successes in creating some of Australia’s most iconic dining venues, including globally known restaurants like Icebergs, Caffe e Cucina, and Café Veloce & Melbourne Wine Room. Melbourne born but with Italian parents, Maurice aims to modernise the Italian style of living through his projects, creating new traditions and trends. Father to 3 year old Cesare (aka cez), fashion designer and world acclaimed restaurateur, Maurice is an inspiring man to talk to, and we were lucky enough to catch him at a rare free moment to pick his brain on his Italian roots, the inspiration behind Da Maria, and what he loves most about Bali.
Hi Maurice! Firstly, how did you get into the whole restaurant and hospitality scene?
I started working as a waiter when I was 13, when I was living in Melbourne, which got me through high school, and then I started working in pubs and clubs and so on. I ended up in Milan in 1984 where my sister was working as a designer and fell into the punk and disco scene where it was normal to spend time in all these incredible clubs and restaurants. Then, when I went back to Australia I felt that Italy was misrepresented – we aren’t all farmers, you know? We don’t all sit at home and make sausages every weekend! This is not the Italy I grew up in, the Italy I grew up in was very socialist and rebellious, and I really felt there should be somewhere that represented what contemporary Italy is all about, which is how Caffe e Cucina was born.
Caffe e Cucina was your first venture, and it was a roaring success. Within 3 years it was named by The New York Times as 1 of the top 10 cafes in the world! What was this whole experience like?
It was amazing but also a struggle, and a huge learning experience. I came from an uneducated family – my mum and dad grew up during the war and migrated to Milan at 12 years old to find work, so growing up I didn’t get taught any business skills at home. But I was a really good waiter, I was determined, and just before the project started I was working for some really cool cafes in Melbourne with a bit of a following. When I opened Caffe e Cucina it was an instant success – it was the right time, the right place, and the right concept.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you are thinking up concepts for new venues?
It can be anything from everyday life – one small thing can lead to the grand concept of an entire venue. The Melboune Wine Room actually started with a glass – the glass became a table, the table became the wine, the wine became the wine list, and the list goes on! The vision for Icebergs was clear form the minute I saw the location. I wanted to keep the idea in line with the fact that we were in Bondi [and that view!] but I wanted to link it back to my heritage. Each venue is different, and the concept can come from anything.
Your Instagram bio states that you are ‘Determined to promote and share the love and connection between food wine music fashion art and friend’. Do you think this comes from your Italian roots?
Definitely. One of my favourite quotes is all about traditions and how yes, it’s important to follow them, but it’s also important to make your own. As Italians we tend to follow, so I am trying to create my own, and actually I find that I am an ambassador for the Italian second generation.
Throughout your career and successes, can you pick a favourite moment or occasion that stands out?
The opening of Caffe e Cucina was definitely up there. Me and my partner were young lads you know? We had no real business experience, $1000 each in our pockets, and we built the café [along with a few builders] with our own hands, so it was a special moment when it opened. The moment Icebergs became international and was a restaurant that I could show off to the world was also incredible. There are too many important moments to narrow down!
Talk to us about the design behind Da Maria – it is awesome!
Carl Pickering [the architect that designed Da Maria] is someone I admire hugely and have been working with for years. He took my concept of serving simple Italian food in a tropical setting, and combined my passion for modernising Italy. Every element of Da Maria is made in Bali too, so we combined Europe with Bali, and the result is a timeless classic. I am also involved heavily in the graphics, so I sketch out what I like and then work alongside a guy called Jamie from M35 who brings my ideas to life. Da Maria branding is trying to go against the standard pizzeria style – we went bold and modern!
And the name, where did this originate from?
Maria is the mystery woman… Da Maria is part of a series of restaurants I am doing where the DNA strand is the same, so you recognise who is behind the concept but that is doesn’t feel like a franchise. So, there is Da Orazio in Bondi, and one I am working on in the city (watch this space) – you can tell these are all part of a group but they all have their own personalities.
If you could describe the concept of Da Maria in 5 words, what would they be?
Italo Dining Pizza And Bar. Da Maria is a modern Italian restaurant in the Osteria style that combines all aspects of living together. It’s not just about the food – music, for instance, is a huge part of the experience. We have Kali, an iconic Sydney DJ, curating all our playlists, plus a host of artists coming in for the late-night sessions. Da Maria combines food, wine, music, fashion, art, and friends together.
You are best known as a restaurateur, but can also add fashion designer to your list of accomplishments. How did your fashion label Ten Pieces come about?
It’s all encompassing you know? Fashion, art, music, food – it’s life! I was intrigued by the way the youth dress too, so I started the label, with my partner in life [Lucy Hinkfuss] to represent contemporary fashion. Ten Pieces is unisex, comfortable, affordable and adaptable. We even created the Da Maria uniforms from Ten Pieces and have got a boutique, the Da Maria Shop by Ten Pieces, at the front of the restaurant, so it really is all encompassing.
What is next in the pipeline for you? We have heard rumours of an Iceberg style resort and beach club…
Yes, we are planning an Icebergs Beach Club, complete with its own amphitheatre, and potentially a hotel behind it. It’s not quite a done deal as we don’t have the lease in our hands but in principal it’s going ahead. The designs for this urban beach club have been finished [and Honeycombers got a sneak peek and it’s awesome!] and we are all extremely excited about the project.
When you are not working, how do you relax?
Television. I love lying down in front of the TV and completely switching off.
And finally, what is your favourite thing to do in Bali?
Spend time with the family, and enjoy villa life really. I try and be a little healthier when in Bali too, so I hit the gym, walk on the beach or take a swim in the pool. Just try and get that work, life balance right.
Follow Maurice on instagram @mauriceterzini, and visit Da Maria, Jalan Pettinenget no. 170, p. +62 (0)361 302 1288.