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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    New eatery offers Australian menu

    Grace Pierson
    Grace Pierson/ The Daily Wildcat Tucson residents invited to Aussie Cantina’s private cocktail party on Friday night sampled food and drinks in the warm and trendy new restaurant on 6th St.

    Rusted metal almost a century old lines the bar in The Shed, the largest dining area of Aussie Cantina, a new restaurant on East Sixth Street. A gas tank from the 1940s hangs on the wall adjacent to the bar and a long wooden table, blue-green from ocean salt water, gives the room an outdoorsy feel.

    Aussie Cantina opened to the public on Monday, making it the newest pub restaurant to open near the UA. Located at 1118 E. Sixth St., the cantina offers the UA community a new hangout spot to have drinks, eat and listen to live local music on the weekends.

    A wide doorway leads into the center room of the restaurant, which opens out to a patio near the street, through a garage door. At the west end of the restaurant, a more private family room offers visitors a coffee table, a fireplace, couches and a smaller bar.

    Ralph Avella, co-owner and manager of Aussie Cantina, said he’s dreamed of opening his own place for 15 to 20 years. About a year ago, his longtime friend Melissa McBeth introduced him to Glenn Murphy, a native Australian with an extensive career in music and restaurant management. After their first lunch together, the two teamed up and worked toward opening the cantina.

    “It was a no-brainer for me when I thought, ‘Who would work well with another person?’” McBeth said. “Now that it is a reality, I think they’re going to be one of the funnest places to go near the U of A.”

    Avella and Murphy spent much of the past year breaking down walls and finding creative ways to give the restaurant the proper flow so that it would feel like one business, while still being separated into a more laid-back hangout room and a more polished room.

    The restaurant-pub puts an Australian twist on foods like tacos, burgers and seafood. Avella and the head chef researched Australian foods, prepared them and had Murphy taste-test before the dishes were finalized, Avella said. Hatch green chili and caramelized onions appear in many of the cantina’s dishes.

    “What we want to be known as is ‘legit,’” Avella said. “We have items on the menu that are true blue Aussie style.”

    A photograph of an outdoor bar on the coast near Perth, Australia, covers the east wall of The Shed. The photograph of people drinking and gambling shows the kind of environment the owners hope visitors find when they visit the cantina. A small stage in the corner of the room will host local bands, mostly indie pop and country.

    Avella, a UA alumnus with degrees in sociology and Italian, has been working in the restaurant business for 25 years, with a long career of waiting, bartending and managing restaurants around Tucson. Tina Roefler, Avella’s sister, said she’s proud of what her brother has accomplished in the past year.

    “He always knew he was going to stay in Tucson and make a difference,” Roefler said. “I’m very proud of the concept of it all.”

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