Great food, coffee? Industrial strength!

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Container Cafe, 4/2 Roussos Place, Truganina. Phone: 0466 148 762

Across the great swathes of the industrial/commercial west, there seem to be cafes at least every couple of kilometres.

These days, all but the most rigourously old-school seem to make some effort to provide a variety of food.

Some of it is even healthy – salads and the like.

Still, some habits die hard and there are traditions to uphold.

Recently, at the cafe nearest to the Star Weekly Keilor Park office, I saw a trucky being served a mountainous bowl of extremely creamy pasta carbonara.

His pasta was topped, at his request, with a large amount of roast pork – and crackling!

 

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And I reckon most of these hundreds of places would cop complaints if the stalwart potato cakes and deep-fried, nuggety-hard dimmies weren’t on hand.

Despite all this, I am nevertheless expecting something different from Container Cafe, even though it is set in the industrial wilds of Truganina.

This place is being run, after all, by the same crew responsible for the very cool Yarraville cafe Woven, which has been turning out fine tucker for a few years now.

But upon entering the place for the first time, what do I see?

 

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Yup, potato cakes and dimmies.

Turns out, in this sort of joint in this sort of place, some things just have to done.

The Container Cafe lads came to this conclusion during research that entailed checking out the competition for many miles round – and just like that competition, they, too, will be opening at 5am.

But as I look around the “container”, I discover plenty of good signs that this is not just another tradie-style eatery.

For one thing, space dictates that there is no bain marie here – so most everything is prepared fresh.

In a heated display cabinet on the counter, there are Ka Pies!

 

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And alongside the cafe-regulation HP Sauce is a range of hot sauces.

Finally, there is the Container Cafe menu (see below).

Wow!

Plenty of carb/grease standards should they be desired – but plenty else besides, including a hot line-up of burgers and sandwiches with high degrees of Woven DNA running through them.

 

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My southern fried chicken burger ($11.50) is a killer – maybe even the best chook burger I’ve eaten.

The thigh meat is crisp on the outer, and oh-so-very juicy and delicious on the inner.

My outstanding burger is completed with terrific rough-cut slaw, very good melted cheese and pickles.

The crinckle-cut chips ($3.50) are hot and fab, though a tad too salty even for salt-addict me.

 

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The Cuban sandwich is another outright winner – superb value for $10 and getting extra points straightaway for being made with the appropriate, Cuban-style bread.

The innards are wonderfully gooey mix of melted gruyere, pickles, pulled pork and ham.

 

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My cafe latte ($3.50) is beaut.

From what I’ve seen on two visits, Container Cafe is already a hit with workers in the surrounding area – and why wouldn’t it be?

In finer weather, though, I fully expect to see this place attract a wider crowd from a broader area.

There’s a heap of outdoor seating that will make Container Cafe a fine food destination and parking is a breeze.

And the food, and the attention detail and pricing, certainly take care of business in  style.

Though you can get dimmies or potato cakes if that’s your go.

As well, as a post-lunch drive brings home to me, while residential Truganina is still some distance away from Container Cafe, and on the other side Dohertys Road, there is a lot of construction going on, meaning a lot more people looking for affordable good food and coffee.

And neither are thick on the ground in Truganina to date.

Container Cafe is open 5am-3pm Monday-Friday, though that could change depending on demand; EFTPOs facilities being installed this week.

 

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Sushi train fun

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Sakura Kaiten Sushi II, 282 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9077 1167.

Our visit to this Japanese eatery is one of those random things – we could’ve ended up anywhere in the guts of the CBD  and in and around Chinatown.

But we are happy with our impulsive decision.

Owing to our previous familiarity with this place’s competition around the corner, we are well acquainted with the ins and outs of sushi trains.

 

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And we imagine it’s that other place’s pricing regime and that of the area in general that help make Sakura Kaiten Sushi II – apparently there’s another branch in Little Collins Street – so affordable.

 

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But Sakura Kaiten Sushi II has a few wrinkles that are new to us.

For starters, the place is something of a shrine to Japanese pop culture.

 

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And in addition to the regular sushi train goodies trundling by at a measured pace, there is an elevated rail line that carries items ordered by iPad and freshly prepared in the kitchen.

 

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These are delivered by two express trains – one of the cop variety (our side), the other of the firefighting kind (the other side).

 

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I think it would take very many visits to not find the whizzing by of these two trains, silent and stealthy, as somewhat unsettling.

 

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The food?

Again, I think it would take several visits to really get a handle on what is good, what is not and what is marvellous.

 

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Low prices are not everything.

But marvellous I suspect there is, simply based on the high turnover and the number of staff – both front of house and in the kitchen – taking care of business.

 

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We enjoy our visit – we have some good stuff and enjoy the novelty value very much.

 

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Late-night burger spot rocks

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danny4

 

Danny’s Burgers, 358/360 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North. Phone: 9481 5847

We’ve just seen and heard Bennie’s first major league jazz show – tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders at Bird’s Basement.

It was a thrill to see a jazzman of such stature, someone who has been reaching for sky (and God) for a long time, and even Bennie was impressed.

It was, however, something of a perfunctory show with plenty of empty seats, especially of the pricier variety right in front of the band (ours, the next price tier down, were off to one side but superb).

Perhaps, even with an artist of such calibre, two shows a night for five nights is stretching it – even in a great jazz city such as Melbourne.

In any case, our show was the late one and now we’re out and about on a Saturday night and the obvious question arises.

I ask it: “Burger?”

Bennie nods his head in an eager agreement.

 

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So we head to one of Melbourne’s famed late-night spots – Danny’s Burgers in Fitzroy North.

I’ve been known to hit Danny’s every year or so when the late-night munchies strike.

Tonight, about 12.30am, it’s busy without being crazy, either in terms of patron numbers or their demeanour.

After we’ve ordered, Bennie tells me he, too, has been here – though I have no recollection of such a visit.

Invariably, I’ve found to food to be adequate here – good for filler but not something I’d pursue in more normal hours.

This time, we do much better.

We both order the Double Stack number with two patties, lettuce, raw onion, double cheese and “special” sauce ($10).

 

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They’re winners!

Perhaps, as Bennie opines, the difference is the inclusion of pickles – but these really are fine burgers.

The beef seems more beefy than that I recall from previous visits.

The overall vibe of our burgers is unusually and enjoyably somewhere between the Aussie-style outings I’ve had here in the past and the more Merican-style of the many new-wave burger places around town.

I’m not sure what the “special” sauce entails, though it does seem to be not-your-standard-tomato sauce.

Thankfully.

 

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The chips here are always excellent.

Burgers, chips, two cans of fizz and we’re out of there after grabbing some spare change from $30.

Good deal!

 

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Beautiful food, beautiful place in Seddon

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Fig & Walnut, 11-13 Bellairs Avenue, Seddon. Phone: 0433 574 194

Consider The Sauce has long admired the twin rows of old shops on either side of the tracks near Seddon station, on Bellairs Avenue and Pentland Parade.

We’ve often wondered what the street scenes must have been like when those shops were in their heydays.

And we’ve sometimes mused how lovely it would be to see some street life returning to the area.

Of course, almost all the properties concerned have been turned over to purely residential uses in the subsequent decades.

And who could blame those who live there from being sensitive about and protective of their quiet neighbourhood?

Fig & Walnut proprietor Vera told us, as her cafe was coming together, that she did indeed have to put some serious and sincere effort into winning over the locals.

She did so – and I’m betting they’re all rapt about having this business on their collective doorstep.

Because Fig & Walnut is a stunner.

 

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The old shop has been done out in bright and open style, with the wooden ceilings and brickwork retained.

 

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The eating spaces include the front room of the next door shop and the lovely garden out back has a cute-as-a-button cubbie house.

But all that’s just the start …

The vibe here is bustling and cheerful.

And the food, based on our first visit’s meals, is marvellous – and those we eyeball that are headed elsewhere look, some of them, even sexier.

There’s breakfasts and lunches and two soups.

Given a superficial glance, the menu (see below) may seem to be mostly made up of variations on the cafe theme.

But the results bespeak skill, imagination and inspiration way beyond that …

 

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Bennie’s pancakes ($18) are a fantasia of colours and flavours.

The gluten-free pancakes themselves are shaped more like burger patties or fat cookies – and taste kinda grainy yet also marvellous.

They’re attended by maple mascarpone, saffron-poached pear, grilled figs, berries, passionfruit and more.

 

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There’s three salads on the menu, any of which can be supplemented by protein portions such as poached coconut chicken, eye fillet or salmon.

I feel no need to do so when ordering my roasted winter root vegetable salad ($16.90).

How good does it look?

It tastes even better, the perfectly cooked vegetables doing a sensual tango with turmeric yogurt and rocket pesto, both of which are delivered in perfect quantities to lube things along nicely.

Reads like cafe food, priced like cafe food – but delivering like a flash re$taurant.

 

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Vera “shouts” us flourless orange cake ($6.90) and …

 

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… chocolate brownie ($4.90) to go with our excellent coffees.

They, too, are wonderful, the brownie seeming to have some choc pudding DNA in its make-up.

Next time for me?

The insanely gorgeous-looking zucchini-and-haloumi skewers I see heading for another table.

Or maybe the Greek lentil soup with apple cider vinegar Vera tells me is her fave …

The cool Fig & Walnut logo was designed by local creative Liana Lucca-Pope from Hello Idea, also responsible for Littlefoot Bar’s brand identity. See the Hello Idea website here.

 

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Seriously sexy Asian BBQ

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Phi Phi 2, 31a Alfrieda Street, St Albans. Phone 9077 2466

First I heard there was a new Korean place on Alfrieda Street.

Then I heard it was Asian-fusion.

Then I heard it was a new branch of one of our fave St Albans eateries, Phi Phi.

Then I saw the photos on the new place’s Facebook page and … I remained somewhat confused.

But it doesn’t take long after ascending the stairs of Phi Phi 2 for all to become clear to me and Bennie.

Phi Phi 2 serves a limited range of curries and salads. It has a lighter, tighter lunch menu.

But the night-time action is overwhelmingly about cooked-at-table BBQ and hot pots.

And given the hot pot variation is freely available at a couple of nearby joints and more broadly across the west, almost all customers go the BBQ route.

We do, too – with abandon and, ultimately, great joy.

 

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Phi Phi 2 replaces a long-standing Vietnamese eatery.

It’s been done out in dark wood, with most of the seating being in the form of booths that line the long room. There a trio of tall, small tables at the front windows overlooking Alfrieda Street and a couple of bigger tables at back for larger groups.

There’s an army of staff doing great stuff on the night we visit and we find the service to be grand.

Phi Phi 2 has been open about three weeks and is already proving popular – and with good cause.

How popular?

Our allocated “cooker”, Jensty, tells us some staff members regularly come in here on their rostered days off – just to eat!

The BBQ cooking/food here has its roots very deeply in South Korea but much of the seasoning/sauces/marinades and approach come more directly from Vietnam where, Jentsy tells us, this kind of cooking is very popular.

We seriously consider ordering from the “chef’s special” list (see menu below) the cooked-in-the-kitchen “charcoal chicken feet” but decide that eight foots would skew our meal-for-two too radically in one direction.

Instead, we start with two dishes from the entree list.

 

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Crispy tiger prawns ($12.90) are cocooned in crunchy noodles that shatter upon being chomped. The prawns are very good dipped in the accompanying (cocktail?) sauce.

 

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BBQ lamb ribs ($10.90) look like they’re a very big serve – but they are just four, as they are resting of a fluffy bed of greens.

Still, they’re fine – fatty, as expected, but with great flavour.

We happily munch like carnivorous rabbits on the marinade-seasoned leaves as we await the main BBQ action to unfold.

 

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First we are provided some sides ‘n’ stuff – a green salad and bowls of kimchi and pickled bean sprouts and the like.

It may not be saying a whole helluva lot – but this is the best kimchi Bennie and I have ever had.

Maybe not purebred Korean-style but just marvellous – not very spicy, the cabbage more finely chopped, a strong tang of ginger in every mouthful.

We are provided several more complementary bowls of both the kimchi and the sprouts as our meal progresses.

As well, we are each provided three dipping sauces for the BBQ goodies – soy/miso, a mild chilli with a strong lemongrass component and a tamarind.

 

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Here’s what we order for our sooper-dooper BBQ feast: Pork belly (salt-chilli marinade, $12.90, above photo), ox tongue ($9.90) and chicken thigh (Thai marinade, $11.90).

 

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And we also get a splendid vegetable and mushroom combo ($14).

 

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The glowing coals are brought to our table and then it’s on!

 

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Jensty tells us that staff members are allocated a couple of tables each to handle the cooking.

We appreciate that. We’d rise to the challenge of doing it ourselves, no doubt, but we’d be a bit nervous about it.

It’s all about timing – and she does it with skill that is almost nonchalant.

 

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The vegetables take a good deal longer than the meats, but it’s all fantastic.

The meats are charred nicely and without exception every mouthful is succulent.

Bottom line – this is some kind of nirvana for meat eaters.

Bennie rates the pork belly the highest; I love the ox tongue the most.

The vegetables are all terrific, too – three different kinds of mushroom, okra, pumpkin, eggplant, corn.

The one lapse – and the only quibble of our entire evening – are the chat spud halves. They’ve been partially boiled before hitting the grill, but still present as a little under-cooked and even (perhaps) out of place.

 

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We conclude with a couple of scoops of green tea ice-cream ($6) that has been brought in, is perfectly nice yet is probably excess to requirements.

 

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Take the ice-cream and a couple of lovely mocktails off our bill and the damage for food alone is $72.50.

That strikes me as a bargain for a feast of this quality and quantity.

Certainly, we have paid significantly more for way less impressive meals in regulation Korean eateries.

It’s a lovely thing to see some flash on Alfrieda Street!

(This post has been sponsored by the St Albans Business Group. However, Consider The Sauce chose and paid for the food involved and the STBG neither sought nor was granted any access or say in the writing of this post.)

 

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Fabulous crepes, waffles, people

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jolie6

 

Le Jolie Cafe, 438 Gaffney Street, Pascoe Vale. Phone: 9379 9886

When I get down, disheartened or impatient about where Consider The Sauce is in relation to where I’d like it to be, it serves me well to be reminded that the business side of my blog and what seems like its slow progress in no way diminish the very many glorious riches it has created.

I remind myself of this sometimes.

Sometimes, other people do the reminding.

The riches start with something as obvious and basic as the incredible food we get to try from all over the west and beyond.

But that’s just the beginning.

Because there’s many people involved.

That human side to CTS starts with comments, tips and even just “likes” here on the blog itself and elsewhere on various social media.

Beyond that, there are wonderfully random encounters with grateful readers when we’re out and about and even in places such as Sim’s.

Going a bit deeper, there’s the readers we meet at CTS Feasts and the like – and, yes, it’s been a while since we ran one of those.

Going deeper again, there are people who have come into our lives, going – in the process – from being readers to really adored friends.

Such is the case with Julian and Christine, readers who I met at a certain Sunshine North Latin American eatery a few years back.

Since then, we’ve become as thick as thieves and the meals we’ve shared with them can now be fairly be counted in the countless category.

Well, metaphorically anyway …

 

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Then there are the people who make the food we eat.

In some, many cases, they are not really relevant to our meals or the ensuing stories.

And, as well, there is a certain in-built tension inherent between food producer and food writer – just as there always was between writer and musicians when music was all I wrote about.

But our relationships with some of the food people of the west and beyond have indeed ripened into friendship and something more than professional mutual respect.

That means, of course, that visiting such places and people is about way more fun and laughter and pleasure than what is merely on our plates.

 

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In just that way I take an immediate shine to Kathleen and Guy when I visit, alone, their great joint Le Jolie cafe in Pascoe Vale.

I love their sparkle, humour and willingness to engage.

I love the pride they take in the food they produce and the high-quality ingredients they use to make it.

I love the comfy vibe of their cafe.

And I love the music – the mix of straight-to-my-heart vintage jazz is perfect and at just the right volume.

It’s the heritage of French-born Guy that overwhelmingly colours the food – crepes sweet and savoury, waffles and more – of Le Jolie Cafe. 

That long-winded introduction is my way of saying that I was a very happy chappy in taking two of our very good food pals, Christine and Julian, to this Pascoe Vale creperie to try the food of two new pals, Guy and Kathleen.

And, oh my goodness, what a time we have!

 

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From the “cafe classics” part of the menu, Christine goes for the croque monsieur ($14.50).

Described as a “grilled French sandwich layered with ham, seeded mustard and herbed béchamel, topped with melted emmental cheese”, it comes with an egg on top to make it a croque madame for $2.50 extra.

She enjoys it and like so many dishes, it eats bigger than it visually appears.

The rest of us order savoury crepes …

 

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Julian describes his Edmond ($18) – “sauteed potato, caramelised onions, bacon, French brie” – as very, very fine.

 

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Bennie and I reckon the same can be said of our Rosies ($14) of “chevre, bacon, sauteed onions, egg”.

So goes the savory part of our meal – but desserts were always going to be mandatory at such an establishment.

Normally, we four would order two to share – but here, humming with cold Sunday eating vibes – we order three, with no regrets.

 

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Crepe suzette ($11) – “Grand Marnier, orange and lemon butter sauce” with ice-cream ($2.50) on the side – has a lovely tartness.

 

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Our waffles take an already excellent meal into even more superb territory.

Montparnasse ($10, “salted caramel, chocolate sauce, ice-cream, top photograph) and St Michel ($10, “strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, above photograph) are veritable sweet dreams.

The toppings and accessories are first-rate and the waffles themselves are both a little bit crunchy and a little bit doughy.

Christine, who knows about such things, proclaims them the best Belgian-style waffles she’s had in Australia.

 

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It’s at this point in our meal – post-sweet crepes – that our gameplan starts to unravel.

First, Guy presents us with a complementary creme brulee.

OMG.

It’s wetter than I’m used to seeing with this dish – it’s almost like a very thick soup.

But there’s no doubting the quality and the flavours.

We’re all grinning the grins of those who know they’re doing something awfully sinful.

Then things get even more nutty when Christine and I approach the bar to pay for what has been a great Sunday lunch.

Guy digs his Gallic-souled heels in and refuses to accept our money.

We give it our best shot, but the glint in his eyes bespeaks a determination that will not be countered.

Short of creating a scene or simply flinging banknotes on our table and rushing for the door, we are at a bit of a loss – so somewhat reluctantly head back to our table.

There, a conversation ensues – should I include what has transpired, money-wise, in my CTS story?

“No way you should put this in your story,” opines one of our group.

“You MUST put it in your story,” firmly says another.

The second friend perhaps knows me better in this regard – there’s no way I cannot, will not mention what has happened.

I’m simply not that sort of blogger.

So there it is …

We’d like to think, we hope, that Kathleen and Guy have been responding to more than the mere knowledge that we’re a food blogger group – that they have appreciated our interest in and enthusiasm for their food.

For us, we are very grateful – not so much for the appreciated gesture of not being allowed to pay, even though we started our visit to Le Jolie Cafe fully expecting to do so.

No, we are more grateful for the quality of what has been presented to us.

To paraphrase what a man said in a movie: “We’ll be back!”

Check out Le Jolie Cafe website – including menu – here.

 

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Lovely Italian, great fun

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impasto211

 

Impasto Forno Antico, 157 Military Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 9331 1111

The long-awaited – by us anyway – spuntini bar and gelateria extension of Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights is up and running and we have a ball getting acquainted.

It’s all done out in sleek greys and wood; very Italian and cheerful.

And, as is only to be expected, things are a little chaotic for this Saturday lunchtime.

 

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In these ways – general vibe, style, food, people – it reminds us a bit of places such as Brunetti’s; except this is more personable.

The menu (see below) is split into sections – antipasto, paninoteca, soups, insalati and semi-freddo.

 

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We by-pass the good-looking panini – even though, as a pal points out, the bread and rolls here are a main event all by themselves.

And when I see a fellow punter at our communal table getting into the beef brodo, I somewhat regret not going the soup route.

But we end up being very happy with our selections …

 

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For Bennie, polpette al sugo – a good number of lovely meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.

 

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For me, a simple vegetable fritatta – lovely and light and just what I desire.

Both our meals are served with salad – a tomato/cucumber number for him, a fennel/orange for him, and we order a side of roasted spuds just because … they look like the could do with some more colour but taste like a dream.

 

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Because of the combos we’ve ordered, I am not sure of the specific pricing of our lunch – suffice to say, it’s all very affordable.

This is not flash restaurant Italian food – it’s just simple fare done well.

We could, mind you, live without the old-school squirts of reduced balsamic that adorn all our plates.

 

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Gelati?

In winter?

Of course!

Our small tubs (top photo, $4.50) of prickly pear for him and pistachio for me are superb, capping off a cool lunch at what is sure to become a regular haunt for us.

 

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On the way out, we grab some of that fine bread and a pizza for that night’s dinner from the extended shop next door.

 

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