South East winner of best Italian restaurants as voted by bmag readers.

The Roman Empire Restaurant have worked hard to develop an authentic Italian meal experience for all occasions and according to our voters, they have most definitely succeeded. Traditional recipes have been passed down from generation to generation with a modern touch by chef brothers, Giuseppe and Donato Laurito, who have owned this family business since 1998.

One of their points of difference is that they source fresh ingredients as locally as possible without compromising on quality. While other restaurants may prepare for a week at a time, Roman Empire do their prep and sauces every day. Their local suppliers deliver daily and nothing is frozen. Oh, and Pappa Laurito tenderly grows the best and freshest herbs and vegetables in his garden at home for this family enterprise. You really know you’re eating local when it’s come out of the patriarch’s garden.

We chatted to Donato Laurito about his winning venue.

Why do you think people voted for your restaurant?

Myself or my brother Giuseppe are always here to make sure everyone is happy, so we are truly a family business. My mother and father still work in the restaurant when we need them, too. Dad grows all the herbs at home and some of the vegetables as well. And Mum makes all the gnocchi, lasagne sheets, cannoli shells by hand and helps out in the kitchen when we need her and she’s 75 years old!

What dish is the most popular?

Fettucine Pollo, which has been on the menu since 1997. We like to call it the D&G special (because both myself and Giuseppe love it). It’s a pasta dish with chicken, macadamia nuts, semi-dried tomatoes and a deliciously creamy sauce.

Who is the head chef?

My brother is the main chef and he’s in the kitchen five days a week and I jump in there on the other two days. We are both qualified chefs but he is in the kitchen more.

What makes The Roman Empire Restaurant different to other Italian restaurants?

I think it’s because we’ve kept the menu very traditional and the food has that homemade feel to it. We’re also very kid-friendly. Both my brother and I have children so we understand that when the kids are happy, the parents can relax and be happy too. So it’s very important to us that families want to come here. We are all about eating together as a family.