We were first introduced to Michelle Loielo through our good friend Fee. Michelle and Fee have been best friends for years and knowing and loving Fee the way we do, we just knew we would get along like a house on fire with Michelle too!
An amazing mother to three young girls, an incredible restaurateur and an extremely humble, strong women, still smiling and caring for others despite having lost her husband Antonio to cancer in April this year, Michelle is in our eyes so, so much More than a Mama.
MLTS – Thanks so much for chatting with us Michelle and inviting us down to your beautiful restaurant, Unica Cucina and Caffe for lunch! Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Michelle – I’m a mummy to three beautiful girls – Tyra Rose 11, Jaeda 8 and Mia Grace (just turned 3) we live in Frankston South. They fiercely play basketball all weekend! Rep for Frankston Blues and Domestic for Bobcats in the Dandenong and Frankston Leagues! (so I’m very busy being a basketball mamma too!)
MLTS – We were so saddened to hear about the loss of your husband Antonio in April this year. We can’t even begin to imagine how hard that must have been for you.
Michelle – Hubby was diagnosed with Small Cell Cancer on the 26th September last year. We were gutted. It was a second marriage for both of us and we had finally found “our true love, our happiness, our everything…” Then we got this shit news… to say we were devastated is not even touching the surface.
MLTS – Honestly Michelle, we can’t even find the right words to express how very sorry we are for your loss. It has no doubt not only left a gaping hole in your hearts at home but also at this restaurant you both built together.
Michelle – We were very public about the diagnosis and his treatment… we wanted our “Unica” community to be a part of our journey. We received so much love through our business on the Peninsula that it seemed only fitting to have that “family” help us along our way, through the grieving of diagnosis, the treatment and right through to the very end. There were so many of our beautiful patrons at my husbands funeral, it really helps me daily knowing that they are all there, always loving me.
MLTS – Wow, what an incredible community we live in. We just love that about the Peninsula, you can really feel everyone rallying around when someone needs their help. So, Unica Cucina and Caffe. Your fourth baby! Tell us about this gorgeous Italian restaurant. How did it all begin?
Michelle – We started Unica just shy of two years ago. Just after Mia turned one. It was always a dream of my husbands. He owned two very successful restaurants in Milano, Italy and moved out here permanently four years ago having sold his businesses to follow his heart….to me. In 2015 our daughter Mia Grace was born and then the “itch” to build a legacy really began.
Rosebud came up by chance and it was a place I had spent most of my childhood summers and not too dissimilar to where Antonio had grown up in Italy. When we took over, it was a mere shell of what we have built it to be today. Our opening day we gave away free gnocchi and cannoli and started to build friendships with the locals.
Today all of the locals bring me fresh herbs, lemons, salami and all of their own home grown wares. I absolutely love and enjoy every second of it. It is honestly a restaurant built on love and friendship. Knowing that my husband and I built this little village from scratch, it gives me the strength every day to keep on keeping on.
MLTS – Super mum, super restaurateur and super generous! We were so in awe when we heard that on Wednesdays you give away a free meal to a family battling an illness, tell us about this initiative?
Michelle – Back in December we decided that we wanted to do something a little extra to give back to the community so via our Facebook and Instagram pages I asked for nominations of people who are battling illness or a carer who doesn’t necessarily get out very much and very much deserved a night off and a yummy cooked dinner from us!
It has connected us with so many others going through what we were going through and what we continue to go through. Two days after my husband died I hosted a beautiful lady who had also become a widow to cancer, it really helps me process and grieve and look at the big picture.
MLTS – Your heart is so big Michelle, what a beautiful gesture. And on top of the gifted dinners, running the restaurant and being a mum of three busy little ladies, you also do a lot of fundraising…
Michelle – We host a charity dinner once a year for the Make a Wish Foundation. All proceeds go to Make a Wish. We began this last year, and yes, as crazy as I am, one month after the death of my husband I hosted number dinner number two. It is a beautiful feeling to give back. To know that you can help others even in your own grief and despair, there are always others who need help on their journeys.
It is important to me and to my children to continue to do this. Even prior to our restaurant opening, my husband was “secretly” cooking dinners for families in these types of situations. It was like it was preparing us for what was going to be “our” journey.
MLTS – Michelle, we are struggling to get through this interview without goosebumps appearing on our arms! You’re a shining light in the community and such an amazing role model for your daughters. Amid what we can imagine must be quite a crazy busy life, do you manage to find any ‘me’ time?
Michelle – Me time, in among all of this, can be challenging. I recently took two weeks out with my best friend, Fiona Denny, to grieve and process my husbands death. I had to make the difficult journey back to Italy to “face” all of our family and friends who could not be with us at the time of his death.
It was difficult, but I did get some time out to be able to swim, drink Aperol Spritz and be with my bestie. Aside from that, I do try to find time to just be me. But being me, even throughout my 20’s was going a million miles and hour with never a second to spare. I don’t have “spare” time, its not in my DNA. The busier I am, the happier I am.
MLTS – We hear you sister! We love being busy too, always moving and doing. It’s exhausting DNA to have though isn’t it! So tell us, what does the future look like for Michelle Faro and Unica Cucina and Caffe?
Michelle – I absolutely love and adore being mummy to three little girls and love running Unica Cucina and Caffe with all of my heart. Right now, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It fills my cup, and makes me happy. I think if you do what you love, it doesn’t feel like work – ever.
I have made so many beautiful connections through my restaurant and in the next couple of years maybe keep your eyes peeled as I am looking to run for local MP and represent the community at a State and maybe even a Federal level. It is a new passion I have taken on in the past 6 or so months and one that I think may be my next step in life.
MLTS – We have no doubt we will see your smiling face adorned across billboards all down Nepean Hwy when that happens! Vote 1 Michelle Loielo! Ok, one last question before we dive into these amazing looking arancini balls that have just been placed in front of us! If you had one motto in life, what would it be?
Michelle – My motto in life is , do what makes you happy, live life to the full. You only have one and you never know when it will end.
A very fitting reminder indeed. Michelle thank you so much for such an inspiring chat and for hosting us today at Unica (next time we are coming for dinner… with wine!) Your gnocchi and cannoli is ridiculously out of this world amazing. We are sure Antonio is beaming down on all of you with love and pride.