Hopper’s Crossing Italian hideaway

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Domani Pasticceria, Shop 4, 220 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 8742 7852

Traffic lights have been installed at the corner of Forsyth Road and Old Geelong Road … to the undoubted relief of long-suffering local motorists.

Still, the roads hereabouts are demanding of driver concentration.

Old Geelong Road from Forsyth right down to Hoppers Crossing Station is one of the west’s least lovely boulevards, a kilometre or so of discount furniture stores, hardware establishments, car-fixer-upperers and discount furniture stores.

 

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We’re not being judgmental in saying that – we understand that it’s to this stretch of commercial activity that the many new residents of housing estates come to find affordable stuff for their new homes.

We’ve done so ourselves, albeit to the Good Guys for a new phone and an amusement place for a long-ago birthday party.

But no one is ever going to award this stretch of road a good-looking award.

Still, as ever in the west, interesting things are there to be found by those prepared to have a peek.

One such is Domani Pasticceria.

 

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It’s located behind a drive-through coffee stand and a fresh chicken shop that also does duty as a continental deli.

Parking is ample and, in a neighbourhood where good food and coffee are rather scarce, Domani presents as a calming retreat.

It’s Italian old-school in the way of Cavallaro’s in Footscray.

There’s nothing savoury about Domani – no pizza or pasta or sandwiches of any kind.

I suspect Domani makes most of its income from baking cakes to order for birthdays, weddings and the like.

But when Bennie and I try it out for post-school coffee and treats, it comes up, well, a treat.

 

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We split between us a chocolate mudcake ($2.50) and a chocolate beignet ($3.50).

The mudcake is pretty much a glorified, dense cupcake and just OK.

The beignet is something else … and it’s a good thing we’re sharing.

So engorged is it with chocolate cream that Bennie and I lapse into giggles at the very delicious decadence of it.

Bennie goes the chinotto route while my $3 cafe latte is very fine.

 

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The minimum card purchase is $15 so that’s exactly the amount of biscotti we snag to take home.

They’re terrific and fresh.

 

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Ponds gelati scoop

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mio2

Mio Dolce, 89 Puckle St, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0402

Our post about gelati in the western suburbs brought forth a number of responses, both here and on Facebook.

Thanks to those comments we have at least one solid lead to follow-up.

But several things seem plain …

There are people in the western suburbs who love gelati.

There is gelati in the western suburbs for them to thrill over.

But the western suburbs will never be Carlton or even the CBD.

And thank heavens for that!

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In the meantime, having gelati on our minds leads to us checking out a beaut Puckle St business past which we must have walked a gazillion times without taking much notice.

Puckle St is a bit like that …

But Mio Dolce turns out to be a cosy, homespun and old-school Italian bakery and gelateria.

Sure, they do sandwiches and a few hot things, but the heart of this place are gelati and biscotti.

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We like it that they only do half a dozen or so gelati flavours, with none of them being unusual or particularly exotic.

I enjoy my very big $4.40 cup of caramel, Bennie digs his cone of donatella … sounds like a turtle to me but it’s apparently a mix of chocolate and hazelnut.

My cafe latte, too, is fine.

But Bennie finds his banana milkshake too sweet to handle. Could be a sign this lad is maturing, eh?

We ogle the range of biscotti, slices and other sweet treats.

We see, among others, crostata, almond bread, almond crescents, ameretti, vienesse, romanini and florentines.

We grab a bag of “mini-romanini” to take home.

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As you can see, the $5 price makes this a pretty good deal when compared with the prices of similar products at our local supermarket haunts.

 

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Great $5 pizzas – worth the drive to Tullamarine

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tulla11

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Pasta Al Dente, 18 Assembly Drive, Tullamarine. Phone: 9335 1944
Eiffel Tower, 12 Assembly Drive, Tullamarine. Phone: 9330 2588

Comments are one of the truly great things about blogs – something that sets them apart from regular websites, unless they have active forums incorporated into them, and in most cases regular media, including newspapers and their online versions.

It’s great to get such feedback – and sometimes that feedback is immediate. It’s immensely gratifying to know what you’ve written means something to someone somewhere!

It’s also often fascinating to see how the comments on any particular blog post evolve, the twists and turns they take.

And – this is the really cool part – the comments often come in the form of reader tips.

We love that and often follow up on them.

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So it was when CTS regular Lou commented on the post I knocked out about finding lunch at my new Airport West work venue.

Lou asked: “If you’re in Tulla for a while, a write up on all the wholesale food places near assembly drive would be great. I hear there is a fine deli, a pasta outlet, and cake shop at least, but have never made my (short) way down the ring road to check them out!”

It’s only as I navigate myself towards Assembly Drive, with a few missed turns along the way, that I realise I have been this way before.

But that was long ago – when Bennie was just a baby.

I wear Consider The Sauce goggles these days, so places and people can look quite different.

What I find at Assembly Drive is some really good stuff.

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Pasta Al Dente is somewhat inaccurately named. Oh sure, there’s stacks of dried and frozen stuffed pasta all over the joint, but there’s also regular grocery lines and good deli and bakery sections.

But anytime around lunchtime, as I immediately discover upon entering, Pasta Al Dente is all about pizza.

Lots and lots of pizzas, freshly baked and served at $5 a pop to a neverending stream of customers.

There’s some pretty good-looking rolls/sandwiches, arancini and suchlike, but I don’t observe anyone having anything other pizza.

Some of the pies go straight out the front doors, others stay to be consumed at the single high, long table.

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My wonderfully irregularly shaped pizza (second top photo) is real fine, chosen from a list of about 11.

It’s not heavy on rampant flavours – nor should it be, with the toppings amounting to the basic cheese and tomato joined by mildly flavoured ricotta and spinach – but it’s as fresh as can be, emitting steam when the cardboard box is opened.

Oh dear – those cardboard boxes.

I understand the physical restrictions that probably make these containers an unavoidable business decision on the part of the place’s management, but still … one cardbaord box for every $5 pizza sold; that’s a lot of cardboard boxes!

Finally, the price tag makes me wonder anew why there is such a vast price differences between most classy Italian thin-crust pizzas and, on the other hand, Lebanese pizzas. I know we’re talking different kinds of businesses with different kinds of overheads and pricing.

But still … $20 and $5 – that’s a BIG difference.

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After my terrific pizza, it’s time for some shopping. Nothing heavy duty; just green olives, some biscotti, a few cans of tomatoes – and I’m keen to see how this house brand lasagne shapes up on the plate, given I am way too lazy to make it myself.

When I wander a few doors down the road to an even more inaccurately named house of pure Italian-ness, I realise I should’ve saved my biscotti money.

Eiffel Tower sells pizza and good-looking focaccia, too, but as the intensely pleasurable yeasty, vanilla-laden perfume tells my nostrils as I enter, this is a serious baking house.

They’ve got all the bases covered, too, from epic wedding cakes and lollies to heaps of high-quality biscotti and cream-filled goodies such as canoli.

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Cheap?

Oh yes!

I’m all filled up, so am disinclined to pursue the matter, but I’m told a slice of the cheesecake in the top right of this photo costs $2.50.

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I do, however, pay $2.50 for a fine cafe latte and 50 cents each for two biscotti mouthfuls of joy, one of them an intensely chocolatey semi-gooey flavour bomb.

So what else is there on Assembly Drive?

All within walking distance of the two businesses discussed above are discount liquor and clearance outlets, an OK fruit and vegetable place and a cheese factory and shop. There may be other food-related places in adjacent streets.

But Pasta Al Dente and Eiffel Tower alone guarantee we’ll be back this way soon.

Besides, Consider The Sauce gets a real kick out of finding food on industrial estates!

 

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Dolcetti

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Dolcetti, 223 Victoria St, West Melbourne. Phone: 9328 1688

Despite having a deep fondness for Dolcetti we don’t visit as often as we would like.

Perhaps that’s because when we’re in the West Melbourne/Victoria Market neighbourhood we are, more often than not, seeking something savoury and substantial.

Dolcetti is not big on the savouries, although on our latest visit we note there are some good-looking pizzas on display.

When we do visit, what we do get are superbly authentic Sicilian-style sweet treats.

Moreover, they’re delivered here with a lightness of touch and delicacy and refinement of flavours we rarely encounter elsewhere.

Happily, this day’s lunchtime chores have been well taken care of by the simple expedient of doing the Bratwurst Boogie down the road at the market.

So we are most certainly up for a heaping serve of sweet satisfaction of the more aesthetic variety.

Bennie stays true to form by requesting a simple old-school canoli of the chocolate/vanilla persuasion ($3.20).

Quizzed by his dad, he is a little noncommital about its merits.

Maybe because he does get tired of being required to pass judgment on what, after all, is mere food … to be enjoyed, or not, as the case may be.

He does, however, seem well pleased.

Based on my sneak taste of the two custards, such an outlook is spot on.

I go for one each of  ciascuni ($2.20) and buccelatti ($2.40) .

The former has fig, walnut, orange and honey wrapped in an open snake of superb short pastry.

It’s rather plain, only mildly sweet and entirely delicious.

The buccelatti also has fig, orange, honey and walnut, along with chocolate and raisins, but the end result is substantially different, with a more chunky filling.

The citrus component is much more pronounced and does an erotic belly dance with the chocolate.

This is so good, so outrageously perfect, I buy two to take home just so Bennie can enjoy the same taste hit later in the evening.

Bennie says his hot chocolate is good; my cafe latte is better than good.

As ever at Dolcetti, we leave with food senses utterly romanced but tummies and purses in no way tested.

Visit the Dolcetti website here.

And read a cool story about Dolcetti and Marianna DiBartolo in the magazine Italianicious here.

Dolcetti on Urbanspoon

Pace Biscuits

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202 Mt Alexander Rd, Flemington. Phone: 9376-8539

Unless you live, work or study in area, there seems precious little reason to linger – let alone stop for a while – anywhere on the Flemington end of Mt Alexander Rd.

Just a few blocks away, in the neighbourhood between Racecourse Rd and Mt Alexander Rd there are dozens of stunningly beautiful Victorian mansions and homes.

Yet this end of Mt Alexander Rd itself is far from salubrious.

There’s always a ceaseless stream of traffic, all of it busy going somewhere else.

Very, very happily a minor bingle sustained by my car the previous week necessitates a visit to the panelbeating operation just a few doors up the road, so for the first time ever I stop on this stretch of road and take the opportunity to look around.

So it is that I gaze up at the faded splendour of the Pace Biscuits exterior and step through the door …

Where I meet Leo Pace and get the rundown on a charming, fascinating and delicious slice of Melbourne food history.

Leo has been in the baking business for 37 years and at the Mt Alexander Rd premises since 1973.

He is Sicilian-born but was living in Rome when the idea of moving to Australia first took hold in the early ’60s.

His brother, already living down under, told him there was a demand for hairdressers, so maybe that was the way for Leo to go.

Leo started training for same in Italy and continued once in Melbourne.

He regales me with a very funny story of the robust encounter between his then rudimentary English and the 50-question exam he eventually had to confront.

Even funnier is his retelling of the excruciating experience of his hands-on test working with a living, breathing model with very, extremely straight hair. He was required to put in place curls using an iron – as one did in those days.

Becoming flustered and nervous, Leo pleaded illness and permission to return the next day to complete his curling examination.

Off he went – never to return!

He followed his brother’s lead and took up the baking game and has been at it ever since.

His brother, by the way, these days runs one of the famous Lygon St geletarias.

Pace Biscuits make all sorts of Italian cookies and cakes and a few other things besides, according to the company website.

While the name doesn’t strike a chord with me, I discover on the site that the company makes the yummy almond cake that we occasionally buy from the likes of Sims. The brand recognition may not be that high, but I reckon it’s a safe bet that just about everyone in Melbourne has bought one of Leo’s products at one time or another.

As with many other such operations, the shopfront sales constitute just a small part of Leo’s turnover, with most of his trade going to independent distributors, who in turn make sure the goodies get into supermarkets, continental delis and the like all over the city and country.  He is happy to keep what he calls the “the big operators” at arm’s length.

That said, the in-house prices are terrific – $3 for a 300g bag of Vanilla Choc Coated Cookies, for instance.

I leave with a bag of them, along with a package apiece of Almond Crumble and Tutti Frutti biscotti, the latter $1.50 for 250g!

As I gleefully discover when I return home, they’re all great – with the Almond Crumble turning out to be what most of us would call a chocolate-covered macaron, in this case with a very coconutty falvour and texture.

After a quick tour of the operation, I shake Leo’s flour-dusted hand and depart in the sure knowledge that Pace Biscuits is certain to become a regular stop for us.