Our dedicated food fanciers reveal the treasures of their neighbourhoods
SUCCESSIVE waves of migrants to Australia have often settled in close proximity, building communities that keep alive their ethnic heritage. With these societies, within the broader sweep of city life, come cafes, restaurants and suppliers of specialist produce. These food neighbourhoods have become a scintillating part of city life that offer the riches of eating globally without leaving home. Littlest Italy, Haberfield, Sydney: Nearby Leichhardt (Little Italy) is fast and sophisticated compared with this inner-western Italian village on the single thoroughfare of Ramsay Street. Across from the gardens and bandstand of Piazza Federazione, La Pasteria sells fresh and frozen pastas; there are bottles of fresh tomato and cream, pesto and boscaiola sauces. Peppe’s Pasta has fresh flat pastas: rocket and lemon zest, saffron and squid ink.
The Lamonica family IGA (Independent Grocers of Australia) store sells rabbits at its butchery counter and fresh artichokes are among the fruit and vegetables. Everyone is offered a taste as they choose cheese (local and imported, including parmigiano reggiano) and preserved meat (Parma ham, among several local prosciuttos).
At Pasticceria Papa there’s a constantly moving queue along the pastry counter (whole cakes, two tiers of tarts and pastries, handmade biscotti, rustic bread). A. & P. Sulfaro specialises in cream pastries such as cannoli, handmade chocolates (including violet creme and praline chocolate mice) and imported torrone. Colefax Chocolates is a temple to indulgence, with truffles and pralines made from pure Belgian couverture and chocs shaped into everything from stilettos to soccer trophies.
At Frank’s Fruit Market, I find prized oxheart tomatoes and cardoons (the stalks of artichokes, to be sliced and cooked). And at my final stop, the temple to Italian cheeses, Paesanella, I buy astringent stracchino (hard to find anywhere other than the inner west), gorgonzola-layered marscapone (recommended with quince-dark demi-dried basilic-caramelised tomatoes), bocconcini, ham-filled mozzarella rolls and so much more. David Jones sources ricotta from here. Judith Elen Arabic bazaar, Brunswick, Melbourne: Most visitors to this neighbourhood venture no further up Sydney Road than the Brunswick institution Mediterranean Wholesalers, which stocks more types of anchovy, tuna, cheeses, cured meats and olives than you could poke a salami at.
But it is worth pressing on. Sydney Road may look downtrodden and the Lebanese influence may have been diluted but there are still old-school butchers and bakeries to be found among the newcomers. Signs in Arabic script read ‘‘ Sorry no alcohol’’: a reminder of the Muslim influence. At Tiba’s Restaurant, shawarma (lamb kebabs) are a staple, while the garlic dip is world-class. And Rumeli restaurant is an intimate family-run affair serving authentic Turkish food.
The A1 Bakery is the Lebanese version of Mediterranean Wholesalers. While it bakes fresh breads and Lebanese pizzas, A1 Bakery is also an Aladdin’s cave of ingredients, from harissa paste to finely shredded kataifi pastry.
Across the road is Eh Fahya Sweets, which makes myriad types of baklava, Turkish delight and other delicacies. Tabet’s Bakery serves tasty cheese pies and pide topped with spiced lamb. Next door at Istanbul Halal Meats, quality halal lamb costs half the price of that at Melbourne’s famous open markets. Ed Charles Tastes of Europe, Norwood, Adelaide: If Adelaide’s diverse Italian community has a heart, it is in leafy Norwood where tomatoes, peppers and plump lemons are still cultivated in backyards and many of
’ the restaurants and cafes thronging The Parade have strong connections with the old country.
The European Cafe (wood-fired pizzas and home-style dishes) has been operated by the Cavuoto family for almost 30 years while Gusto Ristorante has its roots in Calabria. Cafe Bravo is a great spot to view football (the round or pointy ball variety) over coffee with throngs of fans.
Provisioning, too, has an old-world feel. Vari’s Generi Alimentari Italiani, run by Frank and Grace for nigh 50 years, is crammed with home-cured olives (grown in Norwood) and antipasti and preprepared meals (think pasta fave and spinach and ricotta cannelloni). Next door, the pistachio-hued Cibo Gelateria doles out tiny cups of ice cream (try the delicious watermelon or creme caramel flavours).
Further afield the slick Bottega Rotolo on Osmond Terrace boasts an impressive cheese room, truffles in season and an excellent selection of wines. Just up the road and across the border into Stepney on Nelson Street, Rio Coffee (bulk beans and an Italian supermarket) carries a good line in Italian seeds (rocket, bitter greens) for the home gardener.
Adelaide’s Central Market (10 minutes from Norwood) is an important food satellite for the Italian community. Here the Marino Meat & Food Store makes the best prosciutto in the country and its range of Italian smallgoods is second to none (try the chorizo). Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar is an Adelaide institution, founded in 1957 and one of the first cafes in the city to serve proper coffee. The take-home pasta sauces and gnocchi from the adjoining fine food store are sensational. Christine McCabe Waves of change, West End, Brisbane: The food scene in inner-city Brisbane’s West End reflects two consecutive waves of immigration. Greek arrivals colonised the area after World War II (David Malouf’s book Johnno is set here) and powerful reminders survive. Prominent among them is the quaintly named Mick’s Nuts on Hardgrave Road where Saturday morning queues form. This tiny corner store is filled with tantalising aromas of almonds, macadamia nuts and dried apricots.
Since opening the doors of their shop 35 years ago, Mick Kallis and his wife Mary have seen the Greek community dwindle. Now, Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries and food stores catch the eye in busy West End thoroughfares such as Boundary Street, Vulture Street and Hardgrave Road. For French-style croissants, go to Kim Thanh Hot Bread Shop. Above the bakery is Huong’s BYO Restaurant, one of West End’s first Vietnamese eateries. Nearby is Hong Lan Asian Food Supplies, where crates of Asian greens, yams and much more spill on to the street and the shop’s shelves beckon with exotic ingredients from Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, India and South America.
Of the Vietnamese restaurants in West End, Kim Thanh is among the best. Husband and wife team La and Chieu Le have operated their restaurant here for more than two decades. Viet Hoa is a small restaurant run by a family originating from Ho Chi Minh City that has offered work experience to homeless boys from a hospitality training centre in Vietnam. David Bentley By the beach, Darwin: Say it quietly, but some of Australia’s best Asian food is served in the laid-back surrounds of Darwin’s markets. With careful timing, the peckish visitor can spend the bulk of a weekend navigating between the fragrant stalls and wafts of peanut sauce.
Two of the best markets completely take over shopping centres in the suburbs of Parap (Saturday, 7.30am-1pm) and Rapid Creek (Friday, 3pm until the vague hour of ‘‘ late’’; Sunday, 6.30am-1pm).
Another popular choice in the dry season is the sunset market at Mindil Beach (Thursdays, 5-10pm; Sundays, 4-9pm). Next-door neighbours Timor and Indonesia are solidly represented, as are Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I like to follow my nose (and ultimately my stomach) and go wild among satay grilling over charcoal, chilli pork, shrimp omelettes, gado-gado and roti.
By the time I make it to the pawpaw salad, rambutan and sticky rice cakes, I’m close to capacity, ready to retire with a paper cup of crushed ice and lime juice, and watch with admiration as local gastronauts swoop and stock up on a week’s worth of high-grade laksa. Darwinites know they’re on to a good thing. James Jeffrey Asian grazin’, Northbridge, Perth: The eastern quarter of Northbridge, just before William Street dips into the belly of the city, seems at odds with the tourist-town bustle so close by.
It’s here members of Perth’s Southeast Asian community come to buy the ingredients they can’t find elsewhere. Some of the most interesting finds are in the William Street Shopping Centre. The So Fresh Chinese Butcher offers beautifully trimmed pork cuts and glistening fresh offal. Nearby, Atlantic Seafood is as much zoo as shop, with its tanks of writhing freshwater eels and live snow crabs.
Other highlights here include Walson Foods, which makes and sells its own tofu, and the Four Seasons Roasting Duck Restaurant, which offers dim sum every day of the week.
Down the road at Emma’s Seafood, bargains include huge bags of dried exotic mushrooms and a variety of freshly made fish balls. It’s also the place to go for frozen nibbles (mini-buns, dumplings, fishcakes).
For other good, cheap eating options, follow your nose to the nearest barbecue restaurant or head for Red Teapot and order its signature dish of prosperous fragrant chicken. Jane Cornes Stopping list, Canberra: Dickson is known as Canberra’s Chinatown. The main areas are Woolley, Badham and Cape streets; here Asian grocers jostle with restaurants offering Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian and Chinese fare; there’s also Italian, Turkish and Ethiopian cuisine, often all along a single strip.
Deek’s Bakery & Cafe sells delicious gluten-free products. At Kingston, Giles Street, Wentworth Avenue and Kennedy Street are the focus. Head for Silo Bakery, Idelic Cafe & Deli, All Things Chocolate and the Old Bus Depot Markets, selling fresh produce every Sunday. Judith Elen
Shop til you drop: Clockwise from top left, Vari’s in Norwood; Vietnamese trainees at Viet Hoa; A.&P. Sulfaro, Haberfield; Ibrahim Elturan at Rumeli; Parap market, Darwin