South Melbourne Wine Shop Magnum + Queens Introduces a Tiny New Wine Bar

Written for Broadsheet

Kirsten Dickie and Virginia Selleck are moving at light speed. The pair launched their smart and thoughtfully curated online wine store Magnum + Queens in 2017. In May last year they turned it into a physical store in South Melbourne. And now, not only can you pick up top drops to take away, the intimate space doubles as a wine bar.

Selleck, a veteran sommelier who’s put together lists at wine-centric diners RockpoolCumulus IncStokehouseBellota and the now-closed Wilson & Market, and Dickie (Marios, De Los Santos, Cicciolina), want visitors to linger. The tiny space has slate-green walls, warm lighting and a charcoal-grey communal table, and you can pull up a stool or perch on a sunny table outside.

Wine from the almost 700 bottles on the shelves is available to drink in-house, with a $10 corkage fee for anything less than $60. A Coravin (a preservation system that drills through the cork to reach the wine without opening the bottle) means you can try some of the more special drops by the glass too, alongside familiar locals and more everyday wines.

“We tend to have three whites by the glass, three reds by the glass, a rosé and two bubbles,” says Selleck. “We have a really nice mix of customers. Some that just want to have $20 to $30 bottles, and we have others that come in and they’re happy to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a bottle.”

If the options become overwhelming, Selleck is there to lend a hand. For an unusual drink, she might lead you to a Wildman Wine Astro Bunny pét-natfrom South Australia (which has elements of strawberries and cream) or a zingy gruner veltliner by CRFT Wines.

For something more accessible, try a light, red-fruit driven Ampel pinot noir from Tasmania’s Tamar Valley or the André Clouet champagne from Bouzy, France. Then pair any drop with a wodge of rich and buttery Brillat-Savarin triple-cream brie, crisp black truffle potato chips, or a tin of salty Ortiz anchovies with crostini.

In addition to the wine bar, Dickie and Selleck have introduced “The Queens Tasting Table”, a wine-tasting event held every Saturday from 12pm to 2pm. It’s an opportunity to hear from growers and producers and taste drops that you wouldn’t normally reach for.

Six to Try: The Best Dishes at St Collins Lane

Written for Broadsheet

As far as city dining goes, Melburnians have a tonne of choices. The recent opening of upscale food hub Ella really ramped up the options for casual city lunching, and now, further south, another high-end food hall is attracting attention.

St Collins Lane is a shopping hub that runs between Collins and Little Collins streets. The building dates back to the ’90s, when it launched as Australia on Collins, a series of mezzanines accessed by a confusing network of sloping ramps. But after a 2016 redesign by ARM Architecture, the shopping centre – home to labels including Sandro, Coach, Tag Heuer, Zadig & Voltaire, and Australia’s flagship (although soon-to-close) Debenhams store – is much more streamlined. And importantly, it has a swanky new food hub to match.

Ascend the escalator to level two and step into a contemporary space that feels more hotel lobby than food court. Green lanterns hang from the ceiling, stretching across the entire length of the second-floor canopy. It’s still a food court, but it’s more elegant than most. Four new food stalls have recently joined the party – here are the best dishes to try.

Kurobuta pork sando, $15 
Saint Dreux 
Japanese-inspired coffee and katsu sando bar Saint Dreux is by the team that gave us specialty coffee shops Slater Street Bench and 580 Bench. The futuristic shop was born from the owners’ love for Japan’s katsu sandwiches – soft white bread, Panko-crumbed fried meat, mayonnaise and tonkatsu sauce – available at vending machines and train stations all over Japan.

While Saint Dreux’s $28 Wagyu sando has gained a lot of attention, its humbler (and arguably tastier) sibling, the kurobuta pork sando is a standout. A juicy pork cutlet is fried, crumbed, then sandwiched between two fluffy pieces of white bread (known as shokupan) with creamy mayo. It comes neatly packaged in a minimalist black box, perfect for taking away.

Matcha castella cake, $7 
Saint Dreux 
Castella is a sponge cake that originated in Portugal but is a specialty of Nagasaki, Japan, after it was introduced to the region by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. Each delicate cube is baked in a traditional wooden frame to keep it moist and perfectly shaped. The pick here is one made with matcha, a finely ground green tea powder. It has all the characteristics of a sponge cake, but is a bit less sweet, with a slick of matcha icing on top.

Tune-A poke bowl, $9.50 
Poke Workshop 
Poke bowls are having a moment, so it’s no surprise to see another one pop up in a Melbourne food court. Poke Workshop is the sibling of Nosh, another Melbourne nourish-bowl chain known for its Japanese-Hawaiian fare. Here, you can build your own bowl or choose one from a set menu, which is then made on the spot. The Tune-A poke bowl is cubes of fresh tuna, cucumber, edamame, crispy shallots and sesame seeds on a bed of rice, with a spicier-than-you’d-think Sriracha aioli. Pull up a chair or take it back to yet desk.

Beef brisket, $19 
Meat the Challenge 
Get a taste of Texas at this meat-centric spot. The signature beef brisket here is smoked for 16 hours, so the meat is super tender and infused with a solid smoky barbeque flavour. Pieces come thinly sliced, charred on the edges and marbled with just the right amount of fat through the middle. Get it topped with barbeque sauce and alongside chunky chips, coleslaw, rocket salad or potato salad.

Sushi Step degustation, $88 
Sushi Boto 
This corner shop, by the team behind White Mojo, takes the sushi train to a new level, delivering dishes via boats on a water channel. The store is one of the largest in the food hall and has Japanese vending machines, claw machines, dine-in seating and a takeaway bar. For a quick lunchtime stop, the sushi boat and takeaway bar are ideal, but if you’re looking to linger (and are willing to splurge), the Sushi Step Degustation is worth the time.

Ten courses arrive on a stepped plastic structure. As the steps increase in height the dishes increase in saltiness and fishy flavour. At the bottom there’s raw New Zealand scampi, oysters, Hokkigai clams and garfish. Then work your way up to the Foie Gras Don, a French-Japanese fusion.

Black ramen, $14.80 
Shujinko Express 
This big, warming bowl of tonkotsu pork broth comes with charsiu(chargrilled pork belly – order double pork for an extra $3) bok choy, spring onion, bean sprouts, marinated egg and two types of seasoning – one spicy, the other a black powder made from shellfish that gives this ramen a fishy kick. This is the fourth Shujinko – there are other outposts on Russell, Flinders and Elizabeth streets.

First Look: Maker & Monger’s Heavenly New Chapel of Cheese Is Here

Written for Broadsheet

“It’s like walking up to a candy store,” cheesemonger Anthony Femia says of his new self-coined “chapel of cheese” at Prahran Market. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. Just a short time standing by Maker & Monger’s new stall and the magnetic pull of its seven-metre-long cheese cabinet is obvious. Boutique cheeses from around the world are stacked high inside, ranging from creamy gorgonzola scooped to order to huge wheels of parmigiano reggiano.

The speciality cheese store first launched at the Prahran Market in 2015. Now Femia’s swapping that artisan food cart for a permanent home in the heritage harvest hall. And while the new store still serves its original and signature Swiss raclette, and the All-American grilled-cheese toastie (two American cheeses, onion and parsley on sourdough) the menu has expanded exponentially.

Now there’s breakfast bruschetta with labneh made in-house from Butterfly Factory yoghurt. It comes with candied cumquats, thyme and honey. The Ploughman’s Lunch consists of ham off the bone, hunks of English cheddar, a couple of homemade relishes and some pickled vegetables. The Calabrese toastie is smoked scarmoza, nduja and oregano. It sits alongside Femia’s existing signature range of grilled-cheese toasties, each one gooey on the inside, crisp on the outside and sprinkled with a pinch of salt.

A walk-in maturation room is the highlight of this new cheese mecca. It has a cave-like 10-degree temperature and 90 per cent relative humidity. Cold water pumped through coils suspended from the ceiling chills the room and allows the cheese rinds to live, breathe and develop texture and flavour. The room will be used to grow microflora too, allowing Femia and his team to buy cheese green, or young, and mature them.

“It’s up to us as cheese maturers, or affineurs as they call us in France, to know when that cheese is ready,” Femia says. “We do that through sensory analysis as well as talking to the farmer about how they want a particular product.”

For example, Femia works with the affineurs of Marcel Petite Fromagerie in France to select a specific flavour profile for its Comté Réservation. As it matures, it develops nutty and fruity notes – raw cashew, honey, fresh grass – and an incredibly creamy texture.

Other highlights include a Montgomery’s clothbound cheddar from Neal’s Yard Dairy in the UK, cut specially for the store opening and the only one of its kind in Australia. “It’s known as the king of cheddar in England,” Femia says. And a soft and crumbly Langres, a cow’s milk cheese from the French region of Champagne-Ardenne, which Femia recommends pairing with a pinot noir.

Maker & Monger’s drinks licence is still pending, but when it lands in a few week’s time Femia will be pairing cheese with wine, sake, cider and mulled whisky.

The fit-out is by Arteveneta (DOC, Embla, Market Lane), with brass pendant lights hanging above the cabinet and green subway forming a backdrop that allows the product to stand out. Raw materials including American walnut timber, marble and steel also feature.

“They’re going to develop natural scratches through time,” Femia says. “The shop is just going to mature like a beautifully-matured cheddar.”

Maker and Monger 
Shop 98 Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Road, Prahran 
0413 900 490

Tue 7am–5pm 
Thur to Sat 7am–5pm 
Sun 8am–3pm

Now Open: Sandy Feet Are Welcome at Sunny Beachside Cafe Pineapple Palm

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Just a few sandy footsteps from the volleyball courts at South Melbourne beach is sunny coastal cafe Pineapple Palm. The gleaming spot is at the base of a new apartment block on Beaconsfield Parade, and while the interior is fresh, the friendly staff don’t mind if you bring a bit of the beach in with you.

“We don’t mind if people come in with sand all over them. We don’t mind if they come in with no shoes on,” says owner Adam Summerville who before opening Pineapple Palm was the managing director of Emirates Leisure Retail, working to install hospitality venues in airports across Australia, New Zealand and throughout Asia.

Summerville says the café’s name was not only inspired by the dozens of pineapple palm trees that line the coast, but also from the fruit’s historical symbology – pineapples were a rare commodity in colonial America and a host’s ability to share one with guests was considered a sign of bountiful hospitality.

Lucas Caporal (ex-Red Spice Road) developed the menu, blending his Asian cooking experience with his Brazilian roots. There’s Korean chicken bao with house-made chilli sauce; a Chilean-style hot dog with chorizo, avocado and tomato salsa; chilli scrambled eggs; and nasi goreng.

Since opening late last year, Summerville and his business partner and wife Kylie have adjusted the menu to suit the local customers.

“We’ve found by being in the area that there’s a lot of health-conscious bodies around Albert Park,” he says. “So … we were pretty quick to add a couple more healthy things in – but you can definitely indulge while being fed well.”

If there’s a standout, it goes to Caporal’s Brazilian cheese bread. The round, palm-sized doughballs are Brazil’s answer to a Cheesymite Scroll. Each serve of three arrives hot with a side of St David’s Dairy butter and a dollop of Vegemite. They’re dense but the use of tapioca flour (gluten-free) keeps them light.

Freshly-squeezed juices arrive in pineapple-style glasses and there’s Vietnamese-style coffee, and breakfast cocktails too. Coffee is by specialty coffee roasters St Remio.

“It’s actually fairly strong,” Summerville explains. “We wanted to go with something that cuts through milk.”

Patrick Torcasio of Torca is behind the fit out. A stretch of bench seating and white-washed timber walls envelop the beach box-feel interior, and pier rope light fittings stretch over the dining area. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a beachside playground, splashing the relaxed space with light.

“We didn’t want it to be too beach-y. We didn’t want surfboards or anything like that so we kind of went for that beach industrial look,” Summerville says. “It’s just pretty relaxed.”

Pineapple Palm 
88 Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park 
(03) 9077 4601

Mon to Fri, 7am–3pm 
Sat & Sun, 7am–4pm

Now Open: Bad Decisions, But Good Times at Fitzroy’s New Neighbourhood Bar

Written for Broadsheet

Following the glow of a neon-lit “Bad Decisions” sign into Fitzroy’s newest neighbourhood bar feels a little irresponsible – but it isn’t. Despite the name, a large portion of the drinks list is booze-free, and walking into the cosy space feels like the right choice. It’s welcoming and lived-in, like it’s been your local for years.

“We didn’t want to come in and gut out a cool old bar like, ‘Oh here’s everything shiny and new’,” says co-owner Dave Barrett. “We’ve been in Fitzroy long enough.”

Barrett and his wife Tina know the area well. They own Laundry Bar next door, and George’s Bar a little further down the road. In its former life, Bad Decisions was Spanish tapas bar La Sangria, and there are flashes of its existence peppered throughout in recycled bar stools, more neon signage, the original wooden bar top and the faded words “La Sangria” painted on the floor in front of the fireplace.

La Sangria’s late owner Leonardo “Lenny” Donateo is remembered on a plaque above the bar, but gone are the wall-facing bench seats. In their place, custom-made terrazzo table arms (designed by Adelaide’s Studio Mignone) peek out from the wall. Thanks to specialty painting company Mock Turtle (The EspySonny ChibaCafe LouisDOC), the walls have a worn, aged look, with peeling paint adding to the comfortably shabby feel of the place.

The drinks list is broken into three sections: “No Booze”, “Lil Boozy” and “Boozy AF”. Go sans-alcohol with the Homestyle Lemonade (lemon juice, lime juice and egg white), take it up a notch with Fairy Park, made from fairy floss liqueur, green Chartreuse, lime juice and orange bitters, or go all out with The Broadside, a rum, citrus and pineapple combination with a hint of vanilla.

Tinnies of IPA, draught and pale ale come from Colonial Brewing Co, and there’s gluten-free beer from Two Bays. 500-millilitre cans of Radicale are made by Barrett’s high school friends Aaron Turner (IgniHot Chicken Project) and Trent Haverkamp.

Unlike Laundry, which has a rap, hip-hop and R’n’B focus, music is a bit of an afterthought here. You’ll hear everything from AC/DC to Will Smith to Fleetwood Mac. Barrett says Bad Decisions is popular with punters leaving Laundry looking for somewhere to have a quiet drink.

There’s no food right now, but cheese and charcuterie boards are in the works.

Bad Decisions 
46 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Fri & Sat 6pm–3am

First Look: Fiery Chinese Barbeque From the Dainty Sichuan Crew

Written for Broadsheet

The husband and wife team behind the chilli-centric Dainty Sichuan restaurant group has just opened a new eatery above a teppanyaki joint in Chinatown.

Chef Tina Li and her husband Ye Shao’s other spots are best known for fiery dishes from Sichuan Province in south-west China, but their menus navigate a spectrum that includes not just heat, but also sour, pungent, sweet, bitter, aromatic and salty flavours. Together with business partners Lulu Dai and Li Wei, the pair now extends this approach to Sichuan barbeque at Rising Embers.

Led by the scent of grilled meats, hike upstairs to be greeted by a short line of customers eagerly waiting for tables. You’ll be handed a raffle ticket, and after the host completes a few laps of the floor and other diners move out, your number is called and you’re guided to a table.

Once seated, there’s no pressure to eat quickly to keep that line by the door moving – take things as slow or as fast as you like. Scroll through categories on an iPad menu of Australian lamb, seafood, pork, poultry, vegetarian, grilled skewers and dessert, and send your order off to the kitchen with a quick tap.

Next, your personal grill is fired up and plates of raw protein and vegetables arrive at the table. Release your inner grill master, rotating and prodding until each element is charred to your liking. If you’re a grilling novice, you can leave most of it to your host.

The spread might include spicy pork ribs; squid tentacle skewers dusted in salt, black pepper, cumin and chilli; marinated pork belly packing loads of garlic; and mashed sweet potatoes blended with velvety melted mozzarella cheese. The star here, though, is the Wagyu.

“We prefer to use local beef because the quality of Australian Wagyu is competitive with the Japanese one,” says Wei. “The most important thing is we don’t want to freeze Wagyu because the quality will be damaged.”

The beef is from purebred Wagyu cattle from Strathbogie in regional Victoria, graded on a scale from 0 (no marbling) to 9 (the highest grade, sometimes called 9+). At Rising Embers, all the Wagyu is scored 9, meaning a good amount of fat to melt on the grill, adding flavour and richness to the meat.

For dessert, there’s fruit salad dusted with sour prune powder and a sweet drink made with mung beans. There’s also a combination of tea and yoghurt, which Wei says helps with the greasy feeling you can get after eating too much meat.

The fit-out is a blend of traditional and industrial, designed by Wei. Neat rows of black tables and tall hard-back chairs sit under a massive thatched roof, which is painted white to match the exposed steel beams that run below. On the mezzanine, there’s a wall-to-wall monochrome photograph of Chinatown by Melbourne-based artist Allan Li. Hanging plants break up the otherwise almost entirely black and white interior, and lights shaped like little clouds float overhead.

Rising Embers 
Level 1, 139 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne 
(03) 9663 7616

Sun to Thu 5pm–11.30pm 
Fri & Sat 5pm–12.30am

Now Open: A Whimsical, Labyrinthine Cafe in a 150-Year-Old Former Auto Parts Shop

Written for Broadsheet

On a street corner in Ascot Vale, past a grand old green and ivory facade, is a whimsical new cafe laced with old-world charm. In some ways, Old Man Drew is a labyrinth mistaken for a cafe; it takes more than a few (panicked) moments to spot my friends for brunch.

The clashing, contrasting decor of the eatery’s six very different spaces is an amalgamation of family heirlooms and community contributions. “One lady brought us in some bamboo plants from home, another lady brought in some floral saucers,” says Dorothy May Brown, who, along with her daughter Emma, owns the former auto shop, which has been in their family since 1957. “[Locals] have been really kind to us, I think [because] it’s a family that has been here for so long, they’ve supported us.”

On ground level, exposed-brick walls, hanging plants and timber furniture surround a staircase with elaborate wrought-iron balustrades that’ll take you down to the underground cellar. Its bluestone dining room is cosy, fitted with an old leather chesterfield couch, gas fireplace and a Queen of Hearts-inspired chessboard.

Back above ground, check out the provedore, a nod to the time the building spent as Twinem’s Grocery Store in the 1860s. It stocks a selection of jams, olive oils, chocolates and other bits and pieces.

Step through another walkway and into the light-flooded atrium, where the adjacent kitchen pumps out reliable, agreeable brunch fare such as hash browns with halloumi, eggs and aioli; homemade beef pies; smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels; and Panko-crumbed chicken on brioche with slaw and aioli. On the sweeter side, there’s toasted crumpets with caramelised banana, oozy salted caramel, vanilla mascarpone, candied nuts and sticky caramel popcorn. Or tropical fruit salad with coconut yoghurt.

The two-storey-high glass ceiling pours natural light onto brunchers below, and the 24 vintage mirrors hanging from one wall provide even more bright and airy vibes. “Half of those would be off dressing tables that we’ve inherited,” says Brown.

Continue past the kitchen to the dog-friendly garden, where vegetable plants call a rusty 1940 Bedford truck home. The truck belonged to Victor Drew, the cafe’s namesake, who ran the used auto parts business on the site. Ornate hedging and colourful flowers sit around a weeping tree adorned with fairy lights. Mis-matched wrought-iron tables and chairs are from Drew’s wife’s personal collection from the 1930s and ’40s.

“[There are] lots of little hidden secret parts where you can sit and have a meal and feel like you’re the only ones in the garden,” Brown says. You might catch Frankie the chihuahua wandering around, too. “We tell everyone he’s the CEO, and he actually believes it.”

I thought the grand tour was over, but Brown leads me to another staircase, this one grander, and ascending. At the top, a dining room and balcony overlook the atrium below, but around the corner is the most enchanting room yet; Miss Violet’s Tea Rooms, named after Brown’s godmother.

Light streams in through delicate, white-lace blinds, splashing the white-starched tablecloths and crystal chandeliers. Detailed cornices and blush-pink wallpaper accentuate the floral patterns on the Royal Albert china, while delicate swan-shaped cream puffs rest in the prep kitchen alongside petit fours, ribbon sandwiches and scones with jam and cream, ready for an imminent tea party.

Old Man Drew 
359–361 Mount Alexander Road, Ascot Vale 
(03) 9375 4024

Mon to Fri 7am–3pm 
Sat & Sun 8am–3pm

Now Open: Thai Street Food in a Buzzing Hawker-Style Diner

Written for Broadsheet

Step off Bourke Street and into Isan Soul and you’re immediately hit with the smell of Thai herbs, curries and smoke from the charcoal grill. Tables buzz with chatter, and the shelves are crammed with knick-knacks such as old cassettes, gumball machines, baskets, vintage soft drink signs, china plates, bottles, radios, toys and more.

“Every single piece was imported from Thailand,” says manager Nas Prasertklinsakul. That includes the tuktuk (a Thai-style taxi) parked inside.

In a rare quiet corner, an intriguing grid of 28 cards grab my attention. “It’s like a fortune teller,” Prasertklinsakul explains. We each take a turn shaking a cylinder filled with numbered wooden sticks until the “chosen one” falls out. I pull the corresponding numbered card off the wall and Prasertklinsakul tells me my fortune. “You’ve got a little bit of a problem with your health, but if you asked for a good love it’s coming. Congratulations!”

I wonder whether I should be concerned, but before long I’m distracted by the things on the shelves – images of the beloved late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, tubs of Thai cooling powder used to soothe skin in hot weather, an old television, empty Coca-Cola bottles – that make this space, which opened late last year, feel a bit like an old garage somewhere in Isan, the north-east region of Thailand it’s named for.

Isan food borrows often from neighbouring Laos, and dishes such as som tam (green papaya salad), larb (a fiery minced meat salad) and kai yang(grilled chicken) tend to pack more heat and sourness than central Thai cuisine, with enhanced flavours. The region is also known for serving sticky rice with dishes rather than non-sticky long-grain rice.

Co-owner and head chef Ben Kunchairattana began his career as a kitchen hand at Sydney’s Sailors Thai before moving to Melbourne and opening Bangkok Terrace in Hawthorn East in 2011.

At “Bangkok Terrace you choose [fine-dining] service,” says Prasertklinsakul, “but here I would like you to enjoy how we eat, because this is our daily life. Sometimes if we finish work, we go for some street food like this.”

Kunchairattana serves a mix of street-style snacks and heartier dishes: a whole steamed barramundi arrives on a hotplate with a still-bubbling lime and chilli sauce; fish balls come with sticky-sweet chilli sauce; and spicy grilled chicken pieces come speared on wooden sticks. There’s also a rich red duck curry, wok-fried soft-shell crab in curry powder sauce and crisp chicken spare ribs. To drink, there’s sweet Thai milk tea and caffeine-free Butterfly Pea tea made from ternatea flowers, which turns purple with a squeeze of lime.

The team plans to mimic Thai street vendors using the (still operable) tuktukas a hot bar soon, providing a faster takeaway option during the lunchtime rush.

Isan Soul 
98 Bourke Street, Melbourne 
(03) 9654 0606

Daily 12pm–10pm

Now Open: A Brunswick Gelateria Specialising in Tartufo

Tartufo is a traditional, spherical ice-cream dessert that originated in the small seaside town of Pizzo in southern Italy. Pizzo is a 30-minute drive from Acquaro, the hometown of Gelateria Bico co-owner Domenico Gaglioti.

“Whenever we go back to Italy, we like to go to Pizzo just to indulge in a tartufo,” says Gaglioti’s son Davide, who co-owns the shop with his father. “We just wanted to try and recreate that and bring it to Melbourne.”

At Gelateria Bico, which is named after Domenico’s grandfather, the classicotartufo is made by scooping a half-sphere of hazelnut gelato, making a hole in the middle and squeezing homemade chocolate sauce inside. A second half-sphere of chocolate gelato is slapped on top and the tartufo is then moulded together by hand. Then, it’s blast-frozen for 20 to 30 minutes and dusted with cocoa powder. There’s an amaro and white chocolate variety too.

Domenico and Davide are graduates of an intensive artisanal gelato-making course at Carpigiani Gelato University near Bologna, Italy. “My family is all about tradition,” Davide says. “There was just something about gelato that just appealed to me the most. I think it was just the whole process behind it and … doing things the artisanal way.”

At Bico, gelati is prepared from scratch and churned daily. Davide and his father are having fun experimenting with rotating specials including Nutella cheesecake, liquorice and chocolate, salty Snickers, Franjaffico (choc-orange gelato and Frangelico liqueur-soaked sponge), cantaloupe granita, and a prickly-pear sorbet. The fior di banana is a staple and a standout, with each batch made from 15 to 20 ripe bananas. There’s also gelato-filled cannoli and lemon meringue tarts.

The fit-out was designed by Steelotto, and the Gagliotis assembled 80 per cent of it themselves. “We’re a lot prouder of the finished product,” Davide says. “And it just meant a lot more to us.”

That same from-scratch mantra translates to the gelateria’s interior. Sea-foam green panelled timber gives way to rows of square, white subway-style tiles, and green pendant lights hover above. A polished concrete bench encases the pozzetti (traditional gelato containers).

“It stores the gelato better [than typical display cabinets], it retains a consistent temperature and the gelato isn’t affected by light or air or anything like that,” Davide explains. “There is the disadvantage that you can’t see the product – your eye can’t catch which flavour you want. [But] I hope my gelato tastes good enough that [you don’t need to].”

Gelateria Bico 
288 Albert Street, Brunswick

Sun to Thu 1pm–9.30pm 
Fri & Sat 1pm–10pm

Now Open: A Neighbourhood Pizzeria Inspired by the Caves of Southern Italy

Written for Broadsheet

Sunlight floods the front bar of Il Caminetto, drenching the imported Italian terrazzo-tiled bar and woodfire oven with light. But follow the trail of bentwood chairs and dark wooden tables to the dining room beyond and the contrast is dramatic. The darkened space is lit by a couple of timber-framed windows, a handful of pendant lights, and strip lighting spilling out from under mirrors than run the length of the room. In tones of grey, navy and ivory, with stippled plaster walls and curved archways, the room strikes that satisfying balance between moody and cosy.

The corner pizzeria is by owners Lorenzo Tron, Roberto Davoli, head chef Piero Roldo and pizzaiolo Alessandro Todisco. Tron and wife Teresa’s recent trip to the ancient town of Matera in southern Italy inspired the design. Matera is known for its limestone caves, which – as well as inspiring the aesthetic visually – are symbolic of rebirth, fitting for the revival of the longstanding eatery.

Il Caminetto (“little fireplace” in Italian) has been in the area for at least 18 years – Tron keeps a photo of a printed review by Matt Preston from 2001 on hand – but it’s had a slew of different owners in that time.

“We had to change everything,” Tron says. “The only thing we kept was the name because we wanted to embrace the history of the place.”

Stuzzichini (starters) include creamy cheese polenta topped with porcini mushrooms, and soft stracciatella cheese with oven baked tomatoes, basil, Grana Padano and fried strips of pizza dough.

The pizza dough is rested for 72 hours and made using Italian stone-milled Petra flour, making for a light, fluffy and easy-to-digest crust. Find traditional margherita, capriciosa and Hawaiian pies alongside more boundary-pushing varieties such as umami-heavy boscaiola with stracciatella cheese, nduja paste, porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced speck and truffle oil. Or mozzarella, scamorza (smoked mozzarella), Italian sausage and friarelli (rapini). Vegan and gluten-free options are also available, including the vegan Notellacalzone.

“We try to step it back,” Tron says. “Simplicity. Very good, few ingredients.”

Pasta is homemade by Roldo (formerly of now-closed St Kilda eatery and includes tortelli generously stuffed with potato, leek and king mushrooms; and potato gnocchi with asparagus, pumpkin cream and smoked ricotta. Gluten-free pasta comes from Thomastown’s Ardor Food Co.

Tron says given how long the restaurant has been around, many locals have visited just to see the new space.

“They come in, check the place out and see that they like the vibe,” he says. Then he’ll convince them to grab a seat at that sun-drenched front bar for a Negroni or an Aperol spritz, peruse the menu, and settle in for a few hours.

Il Caminetto 
114 Pascoe Vale Road, Moonee Ponds 
(03) 9370 6884

Mon to Thu 5pm–9.30pm 
Fri to Sun 11.30am–9.30pm