Ex­pe­ri­ence la dolce vita

Bris­bane of­fers a feast of Ital­ian food, wine and cul­ture, writes Tonya Turner

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - TASTE OF ITALY -

BRIS­BANE might not have a Lit­tle Italy like Mel­bourne’s Ly­gon St in Carl­ton or Syd­ney’s Nor­ton St in Le­ich­hardt, but when it comes to en­joy­ing a spir­ited Ital­ian week­end there is plenty on of­fer.

The best Ital­ian restau­rants, cafes, wine stores, ge­la­te­rias and delis are spread out across the city, mean­ing you will need an easy way to get around town.

In true Ital­ian style we opted for two Vmoto Mi­lan Scoot­ers from Hoot­ers Scoot­ers in in­ner-city Bowen Hills. They cost $ 49 daily and, apart from be­ing easy to park, add an el­e­ment of ad­ven­ture to the week­end.

We scooted down to Di Bella Cof­fee roast­ing house in Bowen Hills, where roast­ing man­ager Anna Cooper led us through an in­sight­ful cof­fee ap­pre­ci­a­tion course. It in­cludes a full fac­tory tour, a brief his­tory of cof­fee and its ori­gins, stor­age in­struc­tions, milk tex­tur­ing tech­niques, demon­stra­tions of the roast­ing process and lessons on plungers, stove­tops and espresso ma­chines.

Di Bella Cof­fee is owned by Phillip Di Bella who started the com­pany in 2002 and now sup­plies more than 900 cafes na­tion­ally. Merlo Cof­fee, owned by cof­fee mogul Dean Merlo, also runs cof­fee ap­pre­ci­a­tion cour­ses at its tor­refazione ( roast­ing house) in nearby For­ti­tude Val­ley – a small but vi­brant precinct of trendy restau­rants and re­tail stores.

Wired on cof­fee we scooted over to one of the best places in Bris­bane to get an au­then­tic Ital­ian pizza – Bec­cofino at Tener­iffe. Its light and crispy bases are topped with tra­di­tional, sim­ple and fresh in­gre­di­ents. The restau­rant is owned by Paolo Bis­caro, orig­i­nally of Mel­bourne, and has a mod­ern Ital­ian feel. It also of­fers an im­pres­sive and tasty menu of primi, pasta, se­condi, con­torni and dolci.

Well fed, we zipped over to Palace Cen­tro Cin­ema on James St in For­ti­tude Val­ley. The cin­ema chain is owned by Mel­bourne’s An­to­nio Zec­cola who by the late 1970s was op­er­at­ing sev­eral sub­ur­ban cin­e­mas.

There are now 20 Palace Cin­e­mas around the coun­try, in­clud­ing two in Bris­bane ( the other is in in­nercity Padding­ton).

One of the best things about Palace Cin­e­mas is its pro­gram of in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals in­clud­ing the Ital­ian, Span­ish, Greek, French, Is­raeli and Rus­sian fes­ti­vals. The Ital­ian Film Fes­ti­val is run­ning in Bris­bane un­til to­mor­row.

An­other spe­cialty of Palace Cin­e­mas is its exclusive pop­corn popped in olive oil. It won

mag­a­zine’s Smart Snack of the Year last year but, more im­por­tantly, it’s de­li­cious.

Af­ter catch­ing a late-af­ter­noon movie we checked into Em­po­rium Ho­tel, where we’d left our bags ear­lier. The For­ti­tude Val­ley ho­tel opened in 2007 and won Best Bou­tique Ho­tel and Best Bar­tender in the 2009 Ho­tel Man­age­ment Awards. It also won Best Small Lux­ury Ho­tel in the Gourmet Trav­eller Awards, Best Lux­ury Ac­com­mo­da­tion in the Queens­land Tourism Awards and was in­cluded in the In­ter­na­tional Conde Nast Trav­eler’s Hot List.

A stun­ning fea­ture of the bar is a stained-glass wall from a 100-yearold Paris shopfront and an an­tique Ger­man chan­de­lier from a cas­tle ball­room. The rooftop ter­race has a salt­wa­ter lap pool and Ital­ian glass mo­saic tiles.

That evening we drove over the Story Bridge to Ital­ian restau­rant 1889 Enoteca, housed in a charm­ing her­itage-listed build­ing in Wool­loongabba. In­spired by the enoteche of Rome, it com­bines a restau­rant, bar, wine store and cel­lar. The restau­rant boasts a se­ri­ous li­brary of Ital­ian wine, from aged Tus­cans to rus­tic Ver­menti­nos im­ported by wine man Dan Clark.

The fol­low­ing day we scooted over to the homely patis­serie Dolci Sa­pori in Clayfield, about 10 min­utes north of the city cen­tre, for a tra­di­tional Ital­ian break­fast.

Owner Aladino Pozze­bon greets his cus­tomers at the front counter which dis­plays a wide se­lec­tion of mouth-wa­ter­ing bis­cuits, pas­tries and cakes. Pozze­bon spon­sors Ital­ian pasty chefs to work in his kitchen cre­at­ing such tasty treats as can­noli, ven­taglio, baba, cor­netto and granita.

Right next door to Dolci Sa­pori is Ital­ian restau­rant Viale Canova. Owned by Lorenzo Spez­za­monte and Mas­simo Bor­ta­lazzo, who moved from Venice to Bris­bane in 2002, it of­fers a fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and is a favourite among lo­cals. The menu fea­tures tra­di­tional Ital­ian dishes along with Lorenzo’s fresh pasta made daily.

In Queens­land about 100,000 peo­ple are of Ital­ian ori­gin and nearly 80 per cent live in Bris­bane. Ital­ians are one of the largest eth­nic groups in the state due to the mass mi­gra­tion of the 1950s and 60s.

Af­ter wav­ing ciao to Pozze­bon and Spez­za­monte we headed across the river to South Bank Park­lands to play that other quin­tes­sen­tial Ital­ian ball game, bocce. Sim­i­lar to lawn bowls, it is a fun and re­lax­ing way to spend time in Bris­bane’s out­doors.

The week­end fin­ished with the best meal of all at Ital­ian restau­rant Dell’Ugo at South Bank. It has a clas­sic a la carte menu of time­less dishes, a mod­ern and stylish decor and warm and friendly ser­vice. Giuseppe and Glo­ria Rober­tiello of Dell’Ugo in New Farm brought their au­then­tic Ital­ian din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to South Bank in 2004 – along with Soula Pas­saris, the man­ager of their orig­i­nal restau­rant.

There are plenty of au­then­tic Ital­ian ex­pe­ri­ences to be had in Bris­bane. So get scoot­ing.

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