Since opening his first pizzeria with his father in 1997, Tony Nicolini has come a long way. This multi award-winning venture brought his passion and skill for pizza making to the fore, thus resulting in the formation of the DOC Group.
Tony’s first restaurant, Pizza Espresso, received countless reviews and many industry awards. “It was at a time when few people appreciated the style of pizza we do now,” says Tony. “Now there are many people doing similar things, so we strive to continue doing what we do, but to raise the bar and do it even better.” Following on from his newfound success, Tony went on to open Citi Espresso.
But Tony had his sights set on the suburb of Carlton, home to the iconic Lygon Street restaurant precinct which is widely regarded as Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’. He soon turned this dream into a reality, by establishing Carlton Espresso in 2004.
The opportunity for expansion was very real, and so, Tony enlisted the help of two business partners – Robert Desantis and Michael Costanzo – and together they opened the doors to DOC Carlton in 2007. But this was more than just another establishment, it was the start of the DOC Group brand.
DOC Carlton was soon followed by the establishment of a concept store that incorporated an Italian delicatessen, produce store, mozzarella bar and pizzeria in 2010 – DOC Mornington. A deli and produce specialist, Vince Brancatisano, was welcomed to the store to help ensure its success. “By expanding into delicatessens and fresh produce, we now have access to some beautiful product that can be showcased in each of our restaurants,” explains Tony.
The trio of business partners, all sons of Italian immigrant restaurateurs, pride themselves on representing the contemporary Italian food movement and consider themselves as strong allies of Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement. The Slow Food Movement was founded in 1989 to promote good, wholesome, fair food throughout the world and counteract the rise in fast food and fast lifestyles. Motivated by the passion of their customers, each of the DOC Group’s establishments endorse simple cooking techniques, and vow not to alter ingredients beyond recognition.
Looking forward, Tony says he has his sights set on continued expansion for the DOC Group, as he looks to expand these current concepts into even more locations whilst maintaining a focus on the Italian food scene. Next in line is a delicatessen in Carlton, which will mirror that of DOC Mornington. “The journey has only just begun,” he says. “There is still plenty more to come.”