EVERY small business owner is looking for a niche that sets it apart from its competitors, and over at The Strip Restaurant, owner Paul Berger reckons he's found that niche in fresh pasta.
Most mornings you can find him manning the pasta machine at the Monaro Street eatery, churning out long sheets of fresh pasta soon to become luxurious linguinis, palate-pleasing pennes or sumptuous spaghettis, among many other varieties on offer.
"That's our claim to fame," Mr Berger said.
"I don't know of any other restaurants in the whole region that do all their pasta fresh. I know a lot of restaurants that do a couple of fresh pastas. But we have the capacity to do all the pressed pastas like spaghetti and penne right through to gnocchis and raviolis and so on.
"And the difference it [fresh pasta] makes is unbelievable. It's fresh and melt-in-the mouth smooth, like eating butter," he said.
The restaurant was taking a calculated risk when it decided to invest $20,000 and import a specialist pasta machine from Italy last year.
But Mr Berger said he thought there was a market for it in Queanbeyan.
"The market was there I thought. Nobody was doing fresh pasta, and I really believed that it would sell. And the feedback from the Queanbeyan public has been great, very, very positive.
"When we decided to take this restaurant on, I didn't just want to do what everyone else was doing. And I like fresh pasta and woodfired pizzas, and that's sort of why we went along that line," he said.
The owner and his head chef, Jae Chung, share the pasta-making role between them and on a busy day can sell over six kilograms of pasta.
But while it was primarily a business decision to diversify into fresh pasta, Mr Berger said he was also enjoying the chance to showcase some of the more unusual pasta varieties to Queanbeyan diners.
"I'm usually on the front of house, and I'll try and talk people into trying some of the stranger, different style cuts."
The wider the cut, the thinner the pasta, so it's a completely different texture. A Pappardelle, which means 'ribbons' in Italian, is a wider fettuccine, but it's paper thin, which is a completely different taste and texture to experience, and it completely changes the dish," he said.
"We try and match some of the different pastas with what's on the specials board that day to get people trying all the different varieties.
"The move into fresh pasta has paid off for Mr Berger and wife Leanne, who recently opened a second restaurant in Woden, which is being run by former Queanbeyan manager Mathew Hatcher.
* For more information about The Strip, visit www.thestrippizza.com.auor for bookings, phone 6299 0045.