30 October 2023

Italian bakery opens with a twist to help people with disabilities get more involved in their community

| Keeli Royle
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Wayne baking at Lupa Pizzeria I DO Bakery.

Through the I DO Baking course, Wayne was able to expand his cooking and hospitality skills. Photo: Supplied.

A new Italian bakery in Wollongong is boasting more than just delicious bread and focaccia after launching a new inclusive training program.

The I DO Baking course at Lupa Pizzeria is helping people with disabilities learn new skills and gain work experience.

Supported employee Wayne had learned a few tricks in the kitchen from his Nonna, and showed a keen interest in food when he started working front of house at Lupa Pizzeria.

By embarking on the I DO baking course, he has been able to expand his skills and connect to his roots.

“I like working here because my father’s side of the family is Italian and so anything with Italian food or Italian things I’ll do it,” he said. “It’s quite fun.”

“I make the pizza dough and I make the coffee here.”

“Basically what you can see on the table I make.”

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Wayne is learning from the best in the business, Lupa Pizzeria owner Luca Battisti and experienced baker Andrea Barduagni.

“I’m originally from Italy, from Rome, and we eat lots of focaccia and I was seeing here there was not much around and really wanted to bring the Italian customs and traditions to Wollongong,” Andrea said.

“I had wanted to open a place to do this sort of thing and then I met with Luca, who said to me about the idea to actually help people with disabilities.”

The concept behind the bakery has slowly developed as a partnership between Lupa and local not-for-profit Infinity Disability Organisation with expert bakers and chefs teaching participants how to cook through classes and also sell the products.

“I DO baking is a collaboration with Lupa to support people under the NDIS program to try and help people with a disability to learn more skills and build some confidence,” Luca said.

Andrea with focaccia and food.

Andrea trains NDIS participants in baking and hospitality. Photos: Keeli Royle.

Creating a more permanent set-up for the bakery has been in the works for some time. The community has already got a taste of what’s to come from Lupa bakery one day a week and at local market stalls.

“Through Lupa, we always have employed people with disabilities but we’ve always been very limited with what we could do,” Luca said.

“The bakery is a more gentle way for them to be part of it.”

Mastering the baking itself is just the start for participants, who will learn to be all-rounders in the business as it grows in popularity.

“People will come here and learn how to make a dough for bread or focaccia for pizza but then we’ll also teach them how to make coffee or how to serve customers as well so they’ll slowly be able to do everything,” Andrea said.

“It will definitely boost their self-confidence and increase their skills around communication.”

“Through the activity they can learn some skills that they maybe they can use in the future for personal reasons or for jobs,” Luca said.

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There are hopes that more jobs and learning opportunities will ensue, through opportunities like catering.

“The real goal that we’re trying to achieve is that eventually, all these activities let the participant, their family and the people they know and even us be more involved in their community,” Luca said.

I DO Bakery is open Tuesday to Friday 8:30 am to 2:30 pm at 98-100 Keira Street, Wollongong.

To find out more about getting involved contact [email protected]

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