There’s rarely a good time for a kitchen fire. But, thankfully for Rosa Mitchell, she’d already sold Rosa’s Kitchen to the Queensland-based World Wide Hospitality Group before it went up in flames, which was five weeks ago. “I’m not sure if it was a fault on the power point or the deep-fryer was left on,” she explains. “But it was only a small fire.”

Rather than reopen once repairs were made, Mitchell and her partners decided to cut their losses. “Because we’d already sold it, it just wasn’t worth opening for a couple of weeks.”

The restaurant opened in March 2013.

The decision to sell up was made in the face of necessary and extensive renovations, and some uncertainty as to the fate of the Punch Lane building. “The restaurant needed a lot of work. It needed a lot of money spent – a new kitchen and a new floor,” says Mitchell. “I don’t hold much of a hope for that building. I think there are plans to pull it down in the next few years. So, we thought, someone offered us some money for it, let’s concentrate on one restaurant and open something else in the future.”

Fans of Mitchell’s comfortable Sicilian cooking will be relieved to hear that Rosa’s Canteen on lower Little Bourke is still going strong, and is even expanding its hours to include Saturdays. Plus, her Yandoit farm is expecting a bumper crop of home-grown tomatoes, capsicums and greens.

“We’ve had record rain this year. It’s good for the ground, but it’ll take time to get things planted because it’s still so wet,” she says. “I’ve never seen the grass as long as it is now, and it’s been years since we’ve had full dams, so it’s just beautiful.”

When asked if the restaurant could re-open elsewhere down the track, Mitchell says, “It might. We just don’t know.”