TAKE A GOURMET TRIP TO VICTORIA’S KING VALLEY, WHERE THE FOOD IS RUSTIC, THE WINES MEMORABLE AND THE COMPANY – MAINLY SECOND- GENERATION AUSTRALIANS WITH ITALIAN BLOOD STILL BUZZING THROUGH THEIR VEINS – VERY CHARMING
ARNALDO PIZZINI NEVER forgot his first dining experience in Australia. It was 1953 and according to family legend he’d not long stepped off the ship that brought him and his brothers to Melbourne from their homeland in the north of Italy. The Pizzinis were part of a post-war wave of migration that brought some 200,000 Italians to Australia in search of a better life. Arnaldo, a sommelier, decided to celebrate his arrival with a meal at a downtown restaurant but he spoke no English so he ordered the only thing he recognized on the menu and was dismayed to receive a plate of spaghetti on toast. “He knew then there was no future for him as a sommelier,” says his son Arnie.
Instead Arnaldo joined his compatriots in the tobacco fields of northeast Victoria, never imagining his new home would one day become Australia’s leading “Italian” wine region or that his own family would play a large part in developing its vibrant food and wine culture.
Open any cellar door in the King Valley and there’s a similar story to tell – migrant tales of hard work, sacrifice and success told with irony and affection by the next generation of Pizzinis, Dal Zottos, Corsinis, Politinis, et al. The spaghetti story was recounted over lunch at Chrismont, the winery restaurant owned by Arnie and his Sicilian wife Jo. Located in the upper reaches of the King Valley, Chrismont is the most recent cellar-door addition to a wine trail that draws carloads of weekenders from Melbourne, Canberra and further afield.
The building’s sleek glass frontage hovers over the vineyard like a mirage, luring travelers to what I expected would be an equally modernist lunch. But no, the Chrismont menu is rustic chic. We shared dishes of home-pickled olives, deep-fried bocconcini, sardine polpetti
ANNA TAIT- J A M I E SON