The name which popped up on his screen was the iconic Soho venue Milk & Honey.
Speaking very little English, Orlando headed straight to the bar to ask for a job.
“I didn’t get it to begin with... I had to wait two years until a friend of a friend of a friend introduced me to the company,” the ambitious Italian says.
“Then I finally ended up working there, in one of the best bars in the world.”
Eight years and a whole lot of experience later, Orlando is the head bartender of Lûmé Restaurant, in South Melbourne, and has been named this year’s Best Bartender in Australia for the Diageo World Class competition.
Last month, he beat a record number of 507 entrants and was awarded the top prize after completing two days of intensive workshops and challenges alongside 19 of Australia’s best bartenders in our nation’s leg of world’s most prestigious cocktail bartending competition.
The final took place at Fred’s Bar in the Sydney suburb of Paddington and included four live cocktail challenges hosted by experts, hand-selected for their contribution to the industry.
This was Orlando’s second year competing and after coming runner-up in the 2017 finals, he was determined to take out the title.
“It was actually harder this year because there was more pressure and the expectations were higher,” he explains.
“If you come second you only want to go up.”
Orlando was inspired by Diageo World Class mentor and judge, Michael Madrusan, who also did a stint at Milk & Honey.
“In his speech, he said that no matter what you do, you should always bring yourself into your creation, and that you are what you are representing, through your ideas and through your way of drinking and thinking,” Orlando says.
“That was the perfect sentence to give me the strength to win.”
The passionate bartender added that in order for him to be victorious, he needed to know his drinks inside out, as an extension of himself and works of art.
“If you create a Ferrari you’ll never forget what you’ve done, but if you want to create an everyday car it will be replaced the next day and you won’t pay attention to what you created a day or a week before,” he says.
“It’s about making a masterpiece as opposed to a standard tasty drink.”
Orlando will now embark on a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expenses-paid trip to Berlin to represent Australia on the world stage at the Global Finals in October.
He will also take a cocktail tour of Europe with his partner, visiting world famous bars and iconic Diageo distilleries, from the home of Johnnie Walker in Scotland to the beautiful “Chez CÎROC” in France, as well as relax and experience the best bucket-list drinking occasions the continent has to offer.
It seems that things have come full circle for Orlando, as his career will now take him back to Europe, where it all began.
Born in the tiny Apulian village of Castiglione d’Otranto, Orlando was just six months old when his family moved to the north for work.
He spent his formative years in Milan, travelling from the north to the south every year.
“Living between the two had a big impact on my personality,” he says.
“I met lots of different people, I learnt to look at things with different perspectives, and I formed different ideas of the world.”
When he turned 13, Orlando returned to the south where he studied hospitality for five years.
Having grown up in a large Italian family and always welcoming people into his home, Orlando basically has hospitality in his DNA.
Given that and his passion for creating, bartending seemed the perfect career choice.
Following his studies, Orlando moved to Emilia-Romagna, working between Modena and Rimini for two and a half years, before his eagerness to learn more landed him in London.
“Everyone was talking about London – how cosmopolitan it is and how much you can expand your knowledge there,” he says.
After four years of soaking up the fast-paced London lifestyle and learning the tricks of the trade from the world’s finest, Orlando decided he wanted to travel outside Europe and try something new.
“In London there was a lot of attention on what was going on in Australia as its food and drink industry is very fast-growing,” he says.
“I was also influenced by a couple of Australian friends and colleagues in London who told me that Australia has got a great lifestyle with incredible creative minds in the hospitality industry.”
So, Melbourne it was.
Though he only planned on staying for a year before venturing somewhere new, he has been here for four years now and doesn’t intend on leaving anytime soon.
While Orlando assures us he has some big plans for the future, he says now all of his focus is on the Global Finals in October.
“I need to make Australia proud on the international stage.”
Little does he know, he’s already done just that.