Experience la dolce vita
Brisbane offers a feast of Italian food, wine and culture, writes Tonya Turner
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.