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.