Just Sweets

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Just Sweets, 26 Upton St, Altona. Phone: 9315 0553

You could go to the Just Sweets website to order their super rocky road, gingerbread houses and more online.

But to a large and loving degree, that would be missing the point.

Watching Enzo Amato preside over the 9am mummy rush hour for coffees and chats, in which he seemingly knows the names of each and every customer, it’s clear that this is a hands-on, community-based business full of passion and enthusiasm.

Like his wife and business partner, Maria, Enzo is Italian-born but was raised in Switzerland before coming to Australia.

His family background is very much of the shoemaker tradition, but here he found himself in the food industry, specialising in fruit and vegetables.

But he’s always had a sweet tooth, and eventually friends started suggesting that if produced his famed rocky road in salable quantities it would be a big hit.

He was very skeptical, but gave it a go – and after that first, and successful, outing at a Healesville market, they haven’t looked back.

Just Sweet sells a variety of sweet treats and candy from outside sources, but the prides and joys are the likes of the rocky road – 17 varieties! – and the gingerbread houses.

Nougat and individual chocolates are also made in-house.

I ask Enzo about the history of rock road.

He reckons it has its roots in the Great depression as a sort-of  “poor man’s food”.

Back home and online, I find some unsubstantiated information along those lines.

Yet an equally unverified entry on Wikipedia would have it that rocky road is very much a product of Australia’s 1850’s goldfields.

A mystery!

Just Sweets has been running for about three years at its Altona location, an old corner store that’s not actually on a corner, but is right across the road from Altona Primary School.

I suggest that such intimate proximity of a sugary shop and a school must surely be the principal’s worst nightmare.

Enzo laughs, saying Just Sweets and the school have a beaut relationship that stays on the right side of healthy eating habits.

Just Sweets even provides the supplied school lunches, including sandwiches and the like.

Enzo and Maria never envisaged their enterprise becoming a coffee stop and community hub, but after watching the business at work, their accountant advised to make precisely that move.

Yet the coffee machine has seen Just Sweets even more firmly embedded in the neighbourhood.

Yoyo’s Milkbar


48 Monash St, Sunshine. Phone: 9311 4382

Nothing, or very little, is quite as it seem at Yoyo’s Milkbar.

For starters, based on the window signage and that on the back of the owner’s wheels parked out front, I am expecting the joint to be called Kiwi Stop.

It’s not so.

I’m also expecting, to some extent at least and based on the same signage which includes the term “mutton bird sold here”, the owner to be a Kiwi, perhaps of Maori heritage, and like myself a long-time resident of Australia.

One look at the friendly demeanour of Mr Yoyo and my mind whispers “Mediterranean”.

And so it turns out to be.

It’s been until now a Saturday morning of pleasurable routine – early cricket game in Port Melbourne, stocking up the house with goodies from Sunshine Fresh Food Market.

A stop at Ambe Spices for red beans and frozen momo from Fusion Cafe & Mo:Mo Bar.

We’ve driven past Yoyo’s countless times coming to and fro from Sunshine, but this is the first time I’ve crossed the threshold.

I’m glad I do so, as I receive the same sort of smiling welcome I received during a similarly impromptu visit, to Pace Biscuits and Leo Pace.

Greek-born Peter – Mr Yoyo – is utterly and smilingly unfazed when I state my intention to ask a bunch pesky questions and take photographs.

“Pull up a seat,” he says in a most welcoming fashion.

Peter is a veteran confectionery man who has been working from these premises for five years, his previous Sunshine joint these days operating as his packing and distribution centre for sweets and treats bound for other retailers.

He’s not only not a Kiwi, but the Godzone part of this particular shop is just part of what he’s got going on, a facet of the business he introduced about five years ago in order to keep a wide level diversity going.

As he says: “Milkbars are dying out!”

It started when he visited Queensland to see his sister, who perhaps not so coincidentally has a Kiwi husband. He bought some boxes of Pinky bars home, they went good and he’s been at it ever since.

It’s not at all unusual to see New Zealand confectionery lines around Melbourne, at the likes of Snowballs, for example.

Nevertheless, I spy some familiar shapes and names from childhood that I can’t recall seeing before in my long-adopted home city and others now easily and widely had …

Into the latter category fall Whitaker’s Peanut Slabs, which in my long ago childhood were sold on milkbar counters unwrapped but still taste pretty good today – even if they seem a whole lot smaller.

“Everything’s smaller,” quips Peter.

I lay eyes on other familiar favourites – pineapple lumps, spearmint leaves, scooping a bag of the latter to take home.

Sour feijoas? Now that’s something new to me. I scoop up a bag of them, too, excited about discovering if they really do taste of the heady perfumed flavour of real feijoas.

Being raised in the deep south of the South Island many centuries ago – with all the social, cultural and foodie conservatism that went with it –  all I’d ever heard about muttonbirds was that they were “too oily, too greasy, too salty”, part of the country’s heritage that I never even came close to sampling.

Likewise, the only method I ever heard of for cooking them was boiling.

However, Peter tells me the mostly New Zealand customers who buy muttonbirds from him – two for $25 – not only boil them, but use them also for hangi purposes and even make pies with the birds.

This is some crazy stuff – a Greek-born sweets man filling me in on some of the more arcane details of my own Kiwi food heritage!

At home, it’s a pleasure to discover that while my feijoa lollies are tart rather than outright sour they do indeed taste of feijoas!

Peter and daughter Angelique.

Snowballs Ice-Cream And Lollies


320 Melbourne Rd, Newport. Phone: 9391 0711

We make a solemn and sober vow – we will restrict ourselves to three items.

Such a display of overt determination may seem a little extreme.

But we are, after all, entering a cathedral dedicated to all things sweet and sugary.

Worse – we are doing so on empty stomachs and just before lunch!

There’s plenty of lollie shops scattered across Melbourne – until quite recently there even used to be one in Anderson St, Yarraville.

But Snowballs is a doozie – a sort of superstore for those of a sweet tooth persuasion.

There’s a mind-boggling array of goodies stuffed into quite a small space.

There’s rows and rows of simply packaged lollies and liquorice, many of them quite traditional.

There’s much that is gimmicky and gives us many chuckles – metres of bubblegum, candy necklaces and much, much, much more.

The staff tell us that the American candy – Milk Duds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s lines and so on – is very popular.

Likewise, the New Zealand products are popular.

My Dunedin childhood was packed with Whittaker’s Peanut Slabs, Buzz Bars and Chocolate Fish – but in my mind they were bigger and far more alluring than those on display here. And back in those days – yes, so very, very last century! – they were sold by milk bars and corner stores WITHOUT WRAPPERS.

Just being in this place, goofing around, discovering new, ingenious and weird excesses in tooth-rot marketing gives us something akin to a sugar high – with not a thing passing our lips.

The staff tell us this is quite common.

We settle on:

A box of Petit Ecolier dark chocolate bikkies – we’ve had them before, but not for a very excellent $2.

A small bar of Cavalier dark chocolate from Belgium ($3,80).

A Wonka Fabulicious Sour With Nerds for $1.80 … whatever that is (Bennie’s choice!).

And, from England, a Tunnock’s Milk Chocolate Coated Caramel Wafer Biscuit for $1.10.

I’m happy to report that while we love our sweeties, they by no means rule our lives or diets. That little lot will last at least a week with the exercise of little or no willpower. Honest! Besides, as we like our chocolate frozen, the biscuits and Belgian product will get bunged in the freezer. And it’s quite easy to forget there’s sweet stuff in there rubbing shoulders with the chicken stock and pasta sauce.