Birkenhead cafe and bistro Duo has been operating for less than a year and a half. In that time, it’s become the Auckland suburb’s most acclaimed eatery, garnering enthusiastic patronage from far beyond the North Shore.

Now, owners Jordan and Sarah MacDonald are expanding – but they’re not going too far away. Their new restaurant, Osteria Uno, is scheduled to open next door by November.

The space was formerly an embroidery shop, which the owner had run for decades, says Jordan. “We thought that if the space next door ever came up for lease, then we’d definitely take it because it’s a niceish building in an affordable area with a great clientele,” he tells Broadsheet. “[The embroidery shop owner] was like ‘I want to retire, but I don't want a real estate agent or an office to go in here – I want to be something for the community.’ So, we were like, ‘Sweet, we’ll do something.’”

Identifying a gap in the area’s existing offerings, they chose good handmade pasta to be the central offering of Osteria Uno. “We want it to have a casual atmosphere and be family-friendly,” says Jordan. “On a Sunday, at five o'clock it’s like a creche in here – everyone has their kids. It's quite cool, a nice neighbourhood vibe.”

Jordan and Sarah are in the process of renovating, working with Kirsty Mitchell of Mitchell Addison again for the interior design (she did Duo, as well as Culprit and Lowbrow, which Jordan co-founded but is no longer involved in).

They’ve torn away the plasterboard and found tiles from the building’s former life as a butcher in the early 1900s. The tiles have nicely aged, and in the deeper half of the building, the team discovered a large raked ceiling. “We’ve found some beautiful gems in the site and have been able to tie the design around that,” says Jordan. “Kirsty’s enhanced the natural character of the building, which is what we’re all about. We like to take places with character and work with it rather than trying to paint over it.”

Osteria Uno will be bigger than Duo, with between 40 and 50 seats compared to Duo’s 28. There will be red leather banquettes and an open kitchen. A pasta extruder is on the way from Italy.

Jordan cites Sydney restaurant Ragazzi as inspiration for the overall concept. “Fast, friendly, fresh… and a lower price-point than what Duo offers at night.” While fresh pasta will be the focus, there will also be Italian-inspired small plates featuring bread, the occasional crudo and other specials.

By now, the MacDonalds have a strong local base of clientele. “We have heaps of support. There’s probably a hundred people that you’d count as regulars – and maybe even 200 people that we see every one or two weeks. The community around here is amazing, and it’ll be nice to be able to do something else and add to it.”

Osteria Uno is scheduled to open by November.

Osteria Uno
140 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead, Auckland