Now Open: Cantina Carolina Is Bar Carolina’s New Morning-Oriented Next-Door Neighbour, Inspired by Classic Italian Espresso Bars

Written for Broadsheet

A scan of the breakfast menu at Joe Mammone’s new Toorak Road spot, Cantina Carolina, makes it clear this is not another cookie-cutter Melbourne cafe.

Classic breakfasts come with an Italian spin. There are ricotta hotcakes with pistachio and mascarpone. Bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, a poached egg and prosciutto di Parma. Eggplant parmigiana with basil pesto. Spaghetti carbonara. Double take.

Yes – from 7am you can order a bowl of silky spaghetti alla chittara (an egg pasta from the Italian region of Abruzzo east of Rome that translates to “guitar spaghetti”) tossed in confit egg yolk and pecorino cheese with pieces of pancetta, black pepper and truffle.

“[The dish stems from] being Italian and living at home with mum and dad until I was 18,” says Mammone, also behind (Il Bacaro Sarti – now reincarnated as Marameo – and Bar Carolina next door. “When you’re hungry in the morning, you always have spaghetti left in the fridge. So, it was a no brainer to add it to the breakfast menu. We’re Italian. It makes sense.”

The 30-seat cafe takes inspiration from classic Italian espresso bars. A rotation of fresh panini – some with roasted peppers, eggplant and mozzarella, others with prosciutto and rocket, or crumbed chicken cotoletta with mayo – rest behind the bar. On the counter find house-made bombolini (Italian doughnuts filled with vanilla custard), almond croissants and Italian biscuits.

For lunch there’s coffee-cured kingfish with beetroot and goat’s curd, paccheri (tube pasta) with pork and fennel sausage ragu, potato gnocchi atop a pool of tomato sauce and fresh basil, and rolled pork belly with mustard fruits.

Freshly squeezed juices and smoothies are named after famous Italian renaissance and baroque artists. The Michelangelo is made with three Valencia oranges. The Botticelli is banana, macadamia, agave, almond milk and malt.

Chris Connell Design handled the fit-out at Bar Carolina, and that aesthetic is carried over here. Handmade leadlights have an azure tint, and there are two-toned wood-panelled walls, a brass table centrepiece and terrazzo tiling.

“We didn’t want it too moody. It was more about creating a breakfast feel,” Mammone says. “You’ll find there’s more white instead of those moody blues and dark colours [as in Bar Carolina].”

Cantina Carolina
48 Toorak Road, South Yarra
(03) 9820 9774

Daily 7am–4pm

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