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Tropea
Tropea
How two chefs are bringing the magic of the Calabrian coast to Birmingham

Inspired by a picturesque town on the Calabrian coast, the relaxed and softly-lit Tropea (pronounced Tro-Pey-Ah) sits in the leafy Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Tropea is the creation of Ben Robinson-Young and Kasia Piatkowska, who met whilst studying Culinary Arts at the University College Birmingham in 2010.

Kasia’s childhood holidays were spent in Tropea and her love for Italy and its food was further enhanced by a stint working in a tiny Italian restaurant in Sydney in 2015. The restaurant served ‘simple, yet stunning’ Italian dishes and is sadly no longer there, but the six months Kasia spent there pushed both her and Ben further along with their dream of opening a restaurant. Kasia has wanted to open her own restaurant since she was a teenager, and Ben has also always loved the buzz of hospitality. “I started working as a food runner on weekends in a pub when I was thirteen, and then worked in pubs and restaurants until Kasia and I met at university.”

The pair travelled and worked in the UK, USA and Australia on a mission to learn all aspects of the trade as a precursor to opening their own restaurant. They were determined to be ready, and worked all roles from bartending and waitressing to being chefs and managers. Both are fully trained to sommelier level. They figured out their natural roles soon enough, “Kasia thrives in the kitchen and is a paragon of calm. I much prefer being front of house. It’s lucky things have settled that way.”

Ben and Kasia worked hard to sketch out what they would eventually want their restaurant to look and feel like. “We wanted to emulate the small, neighbourhood feeling we have experienced in Italian restaurants and open our own in Birmingham with a warm, buzzy vibe. Somewhere casual with great, unfussy food and easy-going personal service. Somewhere cool but also intimate.”

During the pandemic, Ben and Kasia were able to use the time to reflect and double down on planning their dream. Twelve months of not working was the boost they needed to take the plunge. They began with a small pop-up at Boo Boo Coffee in Harborne and luckily, three months later, the cafe’s owner offered them the premises. “It still surprises us every day, we are very grateful.”

Ben and Kasia knew that when they one day opened their own restaurant, it would serve Italian food. “Italian food is just so delicious and diverse. It’s also very regional-focused, and small areas have amazing specialisms that reflect the best ingredients that are grown there. It is endlessly exciting to research (and eat). Food is life in Italy, which is something we feel, too.” With the freedom and opportunity to finally create their own space, the pair got stuck in crafting their menu. Their main focus was to keep it simple and let the produce do the talking. “Italian food is about the quality of ingredients, so we make sure that we get the best produce we can and let it do the work.”

Tropea’s menu is heavily influenced by food sold on the streets of Italy. Made up of small plates, designed to share, it includes snacks, fresh pastas, seafood and regional specialities reflecting fresh produce, from day-boat fish to venison. By using the town of Tropea as an inspiration, they made it their mission to “bring the sunshine and flavours of the town onto our guests’ plates.”

“Italian food is about the quality of ingredients, so we make sure that we get the best produce we can and let it do the work.”

Kasia

Tropea’s menu is heavily influenced by food sold on the streets of Italy. Made up of small plates, designed to share, it includes snacks, fresh pastas, seafood and regional specialities reflecting fresh produce, from day-boat fish to venison. By using the town of Tropea as an inspiration, they made it their mission to “bring the sunshine and flavours of the town onto our guests’ plates.”

Certain dishes have become favourites with those who dine their regularly. The Fried Courgette Flowers, stuffed with Goat’s cheese, fresh mint and finished with honey, have been dubbed by locals as ‘the epitome of rustic Italian cooking’. The fresh, seasonal aspect of this dish seems to add to its appeal. Ben and Kasia love springtime ingredients and this dish certainly reflects that. “The freshness and lightness of spring ingredients is a welcome contrast to the slow, heavy winter, which in the UK feels quite long. Spring produce brings the promise of summer and revitalisation, which always makes us excited, especially because of the beautiful things our supplier sends us photos of from the markets of Milan and Paris.”

After their September 2021 opening, Tropea have gone from strength to strength, and now appear firmly rooted in the local neighbourhood dining scene in Birmingham. Unsurprisingly, the pair feel that Birmingham, which has blossomed as a foodie destination recently, gives a great amount of support to independent restaurants, “not only from customers (who have been wonderful) but also from our peers within the industry.”

While they have integrated in to the local food scene, the pair are also lovers of other eateries in the city. “We often go to a Persian restaurant called Colbeh for a Shah platter, rice and extra bread. We also love the oysters at The Oyster Club (obviously) and the Vietnamese salad at Eat Vietnam.”

Following a small refurbishment this spring, Tropea, and the team behind it, are looking forward to what comes next. “We just want to improve what we are already doing and carry on. Our menu will never become too fancy or overwrought. We want to ensure that we can keep changing it and keep things exciting.”

Tropea’s menu is heavily influenced by food sold on the streets of Italy. Made up of small plates, designed to share, it includes snacks, fresh pastas, seafood and regional specialities reflecting fresh produce, from day-boat fish to venison. By using the town of Tropea as an inspiration, they made it their mission to “bring the sunshine and flavours of the town onto our guests’ plates.”

Certain dishes have become favourites with those who dine their regularly. The Fried Courgette Flowers, stuffed with Goat’s cheese, fresh mint and finished with honey, have been dubbed by locals as ‘the epitome of rustic Italian cooking’. The fresh, seasonal aspect of this dish seems to add to its appeal. Ben and Kasia love springtime ingredients and this dish certainly reflects that. “The freshness and lightness of spring ingredients is a welcome contrast to the slow, heavy winter, which in the UK feels quite long. Spring produce brings the promise of summer and revitalisation, which always makes us excited, especially because of the beautiful things our supplier sends us photos of from the markets of Milan and Paris.”

After their September 2021 opening, Tropea have gone from strength to strength, and now appear firmly rooted in the local neighbourhood dining scene in Birmingham. Unsurprisingly, the pair feel that Birmingham, which has blossomed as a foodie destination recently, gives a great amount of support to independent restaurants, “not only from customers (who have been wonderful) but also from our peers within the industry.”

While they have integrated in to the local food scene, the pair are also lovers of other eateries in the city. “We often go to a Persian restaurant called Colbeh for a Shah platter, rice and extra bread. We also love the oysters at The Oyster Club (obviously) and the Vietnamese salad at Eat Vietnam.”

Following a small refurbishment this spring, Tropea, and the team behind it, are looking forward to what comes next. “We just want to improve what we are already doing and carry on. Our menu will never become too fancy or overwrought. We want to ensure that we can keep changing it and keep things exciting.”

Tropea
Tropea
Tropea
Tropea

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