Twenty four-year-old Hollie Monteleone from Shotley Bridge and her Italian husband Davide opened their own bakery-cum-Italian kitchen in November and have since gathered a loyal following.
The Olive Stone was originally supposed to be a project for Davide who had been a chef for years, but Hollie soon realised she wanted to get involved too. 'I loved baking at home,' she says. 'So we encompassed my British cuisine and David's Italian – if you come into the bakery you can get Italian desserts, Italian bread and Italian pizza but traditional desserts, pies and cakes too.'
Prior to opening the eatery, Hollie's career was far removed from food. 'I was a visual stylist for Marks and Spencer,' she explains. 'I was dressing the mannequins and doing the window displays.' It seems that her creative flair was easily transferrable from fashion to food, the whole process seems to have came naturally. 'On a day-to-day basis, I'll go in on the morning, see some ingredients for cakes and pick something there and then – I don't really plan the day before what I am going to make, but we do go on a lot of trips to Italy to get inspiration.'
The response they have received has been so overwhelming that their original plan for a small bakery soon turned into one for a sit down café. 'The local community are so behind it,' says Hollie. 'They love the fact that they can come and get fresh bread. When we first opened we were just going to be a little bakery that did stone-baked pizzas on an evening but a lot of the community wanted somewhere they can come and sit, have a coffee and read a newspaper, so we added some tables to create a coffee shop. When you see customers coming back all of the time you feel like you're doing something right.'
Some customers have even returned multiple times in the same day, bringing friends with them. 'There was a lady who came in on the first day we opened and she absolutely loved it and came back on an evening to get pizzas. She had taken a couple to her friend's house nearby and about an hour later they came back with their friends to say they were the most amazing pizzas they had ever had. It was lovely. They became really loyal customers.'
They've even had some high-profile praise. 'Nigel Slater tweeted us saying that our profiteroles looked glorious, Jamie Oliver Food Tube tweeted us saying our arancini looked awesome and Lakeland followed us on Instagram which was exciting,' says Hollie.
Although it sounds like a whole lot of fun – working with your husband and having tasty cakes and pizza on hand all day – it does have its challenges. 'You have to get up very early to make fresh bread and cakes,' says Hollie. 'When we first opened we were getting up at about three in the morning but now we can get up at about half four or five.'
However, Hollie doesn't mind the early start, and she even aims to expand the business. 'My dream would be to extend the café and make it more of a small restaurant where people can sit in and have pizzas on an evening – somewhere that's really relaxed,' she says.
The Olive Stone, 18 Front Street, Tantobie, Stanley, Durham 01207 283319