I’ve always loved Food Safari with Maeve O’Meara on SBS and was ecstatic to discover Maeve had taken her adventures, experience and wealth of knowledge and turned it all into a wonderful tour company for the public, Gourmet Safaris. I readily bought Mum a Gourmet Safaris gift voucher for Christmas, thinking we would have a mummy daughter day out on a French food safari as Mum is obsessed with all things French. But as luck would have it the French tours were sold out when we went to book, so we decided to go on the ‘Italian Food Safari On Wheels’ instead.
We boarded a Murrays’ coach at Central Station at 830am on Saturday morning to commence our Italian adventure and were placed in the hands of tour guide Sam and coach driver Peter for the day. Sam Cosentino is a third generation gelato maker (we’re told his uncle was the first gelato maker in Sydney), coffee and gelato judge at the Royal Easter Show and independent hospitality consultant. Sam is a seasoned veteran of the Italian tours, having worked with Maeve for over 11 years. Similarly, Peter has worked with the team for many years and knows the tour like the back of his hand.
All aboard, with one final head count we were off…
Di Lorenzo Caffè
Our first stop was an authentic Italian coffee roaster, Di Lorenzo, where we were greeted at the door by Aldo Cozzi and Mina Di Lorenzo, the husband and wife team who run the coffee wholesale business (in Italy women do not take their husband’s name in marriage, and Aldo thought his wife’s surname was more suitable than his, hence Di Lorenzo Caffè). Having immigrated to Australia 10 years ago, Aldo and Mina opened a cafe in Paddington 9 years ago. With feedback from customers and their knowledge of coffee, they adjusted their blend of coffee until it was just right for the Australian market. The cafe turned into a coffee roasting wholesale business and many years later their blend can be found all over Sydney and further afield.
Aldo took the time to give us some insights into their blend, before making round after round of short blacks, long blacks and lattes for everyone on the tour to try. I enjoyed a short black and thought it was quite smooth and had a nice aftertaste, without any bitterness. Mum opted for a latte which was the perfect drinking temperature, smooth and easy drinking (though with the addition of sugar it was a little too sweet for my liking).
Following the coffee Mina brought around a tray of traditional Italian drinking chocolate. WOW! I had forgotten how glorious the thick oozy hot chocolate is that Italians make, not having had any since my whirlwind tour of Europe in 2005. While being rich and extremely dense, the chocolate is far less sweet than what you’d find in an Australian hot chocolate.
We snapped up a 250gram bag of Di Lorenzo coffee beans and of course some of the gorgeous Italian drinking chocolate.
Thanks to Aldo Cozzi & Mina Di Lorenzo.
Di Lorenzo Caffè (head office)
94 Meeks Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 9251 4009
Di Lorenzo Caffè Website
Pino’s Dolce Vita Fine Foods
Pino and Pia Tomini Foresti started their small goods business over 30 years ago. The majority of their produce is made on site, including their famous authentic Italian sausages of over 100 varieties which we were told are all gluten free, their beef is grass fed and wagyu organic. Renovations are currently underway to expand the store into the property next door and is due for completion in 3-4 months. Upon completion they will offer cooking classes and will also be selling their home made wine.
Unfortunately I was asked not to take photos in Pino’s so I can’t share images of the beautiful shop with an abundance of small goods – you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. You’ll find prosciutto, pancetta and salamis hanging from the ceiling, every flavour of sausages in the display cases, thick cuts of beautiful beef, antipasto, coffee, Sonoma breads and the list goes on.
We tried a chicken sausage, chilli & fennel sausage a.k.a. ‘Roar of the Dragon’, olive & provolone sausage, mortadella, a soft goat’s cheese, and an ash goat’s cheese. The Roar of the Dragon was my favourite with a top quality pork as the base, chilli kick and the aromatics of the fennel rounding it all off.
Not too keen on having meat sit in an esky for the rest of the day we decided to come back another day for a big meat buy up and left with only two crusty loaves of Sonoma bread (Soy & Linseed and Kalamata Olive).
Thanks to Pino, Pia, Marco & Fabiano.
Pino’s Dolce Vita Fine Foods
45 President Avenue
Kogarah NSW 2217
(02) 9587 4818
Pino’s Dolce Vita Fine Foods Website
Paesanella cheese manufacturers are specialist soft white cheese producers and have been making cheese since 1962. The factory is located in Marrickville and is open to the public 6 days a week (closed on Saturday) but on Saturday we were in the retail outlet in Haberfield. John and his mum were there to look after us and John gave us a run down on the different types of white cheeses they produce – all of which are made with pasteurised milk. The business started off with ricotta which has a 7 day shelf life – though you’d have to buy a LOT for it to ever last that long! We were given a few tips regarding storing cheese and cooking with cheese – like fresh ricotta needs to be well strained if it is to be used for cooking to allow all of the whey to drain out and avoid it leaching out during the cooking process – though Paesanella also offer a dry ricotta perfect for cooking.
We had the pleasure of tasting the creamiest fresh ricotta I’ve ever had (which was my absolute favourite cheese of the day), some baked ricotta, smoked mozzarella made with the traditional smoking method free of chemicals, a farm style cheese called caciotta with rocket and chilli – not as much of a kick as I’d hoped, and of course some buffalo mozzarella made from Queensland Buffalo milk.
I left Paesanella with a large tub of fresh ricotta, a wedge of Figaro – an indulgent 3 layers of mascarpone, 3 layers of blue cheese and topped with figs (they also offer the ‘Reale’ which has walnuts instead of the figs and has been a signature product for over 44 years), a slice of baked ricotta, some muscatels and mascarpone dates.
Thanks to John Buonavoglia & Family.
88 Ramsay Street
Haberfield NSW 2045
(02) 9799 8483
Tipico Trattoria Pizzeria
Our fourth stop for the day was lunch at Tipico Trattoria Pizzeria in Five Dock.
Owner Frank opens with a little history on pizza for us… originating from Naples, pizza is traditionally made with no more than about 4 toppings, the dough is the most important aspect of the pizza – get it wrong and the whole pizza will be ruined, and the reason for thin bases is to allow you to taste the toppings. Each region of Italy has a different style of pizza and little differences most wouldn’t be able to pick – like the bases in Rome are traditionally slightly thicker than that of Naples, by a millimetre!
Lunch commenced with a light salad of mixed leaves, roma tomatoes, cucumber and a drizzling of a gorgeous olive oil. Then out came the piping hot, light as a feather pizzas… potato and rosemary with wafer thin layers of potato and fresh sprigs of rosemary was an absolute joy to eat. Salami & olive and margherita followed – not bad, but I was still hoping for more of the lush potato and rosemary ‘bianco’ (white) pizza. The appearance of the fourth pizza made me forget about the potato and rosemary – another winning combination of prosciutto, rocket and parmesan, all washed down with a few glasses of red wine.
A bit of a surprise for a few on the tour, not having heard of it before, was Nutella pizza for dessert. Oh yeh I knew it would be good, having been to several pizza nights at a friend’s house over the years – an Italian family with a custom built brick oven in the backyard – where the night always ends with Nutella pizza. Thin crispy base and rich melty Nutella spread generously all over, we finished on a high.
Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos of lunch – epic fail!
Thanks to Frank, Massimo & Co.
Tipico Trattoria Pizzeria
86 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
(02) 9713 5122
P.R. Raineri Continental Delicatessen
From the moment we walked into “Peter’s Deli” as it is otherwise known, I was hit with the scent of various cheeses and small goods and I just knew I was going to like the place. Mr and Mrs Raineri were both behind the counter along with their youngest son, Joseph who was going to be talking to us about their shop and produce for the afternoon.
Raineri’s deli began over 30 years ago by Peter Raineri, out of the back of a station wagon (or so we’re told). These days, while the shop front may have expanded, I don’t think much has changed with the service, it feels like you’re stepping into the home of family or good friends, welcomed with open arms.
We’re shown some of Joseph’s second best olive oil (only because his favourite was out of stock, a Sicilian extra virgin olive oil due back in a few weeks). The Calabrian filtered cold pressed olive oil was drizzled over crunchy bread for us to try. I loved the strong flavour of the Calabrian olive oil and the crunchy bread that was soaking it all up. The bread was a beauty in itself, made in a similar fashion to sourdough – but they don’t let the dough sour – the recipe is 5-6 years old and the bread can last up to a few weeks, though I don’t think it would last that long at my place.
Next we sampled 24 month old prosciutto, but sadly without the lardo – Joseph trimmed it off, so used to all the Aussies pulling it off (they must be crazy!). The prosciutto was sliced so thinly it just melted in my mouth and I’ll definitely be back for more of it (still can’t believe I left without buying some), a Western Australian porchetta is much lighter than I had imagined, while the sopressa salami from Veneto in northern Italy has a welcome chilli kick.
Small goods aside, on Saturday I only had eyes for cheese… we sampled a nutty cow’s milk Prima Donna, a goat’s cheese, a robust Parmigiano Reggiano which Joseph highlights has more protein than red meat (though no doubt cheese also has more fat than red meat), and my favourite – Truffled Pecorino.
While tasting the various meats and cheeses, Joseph whipped up a little pasta for us to try. Quite simply their gorgeous hand-made pasta, olive oil, three cheeses – “Reggiano for milkiness, Pecorino for earthiness and Asiago for sweetness” – and a generous pile of freshly chopped parsley. Joseph and Sam divvied up the pasta and served it up in deli paper. As I dug into my little mound of freshly cooked pasta I was reminded of my earlier years eating fish and chips wrapped in newspaper – I guess this is just the Italian equivalent of “take away” and I gobbled it down in next to no time.
We left here with the a load of goodies – the beautiful parmigiano reggiano, truffled pecorino, savoiardi biscuits (Mum wants to try the tiramisu featured on the Italian Food Safari series), a packet of Greek dried figs (Mum couldn’t resist the impulse purchase at the counter), Fileja hand made pasta and even some gimmicky popcorn with truffle that Joseph assures me is divine.
Thanks to Mr & Mrs Raineri and the wonderful Joseph Raineri.
P.R. Raineri Continental Delicatessen
97 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
(02) 9713 6886
By this stage of the day everyone on the tour was feeling rather full and unsure how much more they could possibly fit in. But I knew there must be cannoli around the corner and I speedily found my second (or third?) stomach. Owner of Marineve Pasticceria, Vera welcomed us into her tiny store down a side street off the main road in Five Dock. Sam our tour guide explained the bakery’s focus on Sicilian desserts and my eyes lit up – cannoli indeed.
First we sampled biscotti which disappeared quite quickly, and then the piece de resistance – ricotta, vanilla or chocolate cannoli. Mum opted for ricotta and I choose the vanilla. The crisp shell shattered perfectly as I bit in, closely followed by a hit of the delicate vanilla custard. Lucky for me, everyone was reaching capacity and not too fussed about the last few, so Mum and I took the opportunity to share one final chocolate cannoli.
Mum took home her favourite almond bread and I bought Italian Crostoli. I have fond memories of devouring these still warm with an Italian friend and her family (and extended family) at Italian ‘feste’. The Italians’ answer to chips, crostoli are flakey, airy, not overly sweet and completely moreish biscuits. These are just like I remember and didn’t last long at all.
Thanks to Vera Raiti.
71 Ramsay Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
(02) 9712 2293
Salvatore is evidently passionate about his product, his eyes lit up as we arrived – more people to convert to gelato! Salvatore explains the important difference from ice cream is that gelato is made from milk rather than cream. His gelato is also produced without eggs, but rather a French stabiliser instead. What is new to me though, and appears to take most of our group by surprise, is that it only takes an average 10 minutes to churn the gelato before freezing!
The chocolate fiend that I am, I got stuck in to both chocolate and dark chocolate while Mum tried passionfruit in a crispy waffle cone. All three were utterly scrumptious and I am keen to try the rest of the range. We didn’t purchase any simply because we weren’t going to be home for a few hours – where’s the dry ice when you need it damnit?!
Thanks to Salvatore & Co.
262 King Street
Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9516 0655
Thanks to Sam and Peter for looking after us for the day and showing us some of Sydney’s greatest Italian produce. We met some wonderful producers, providores, foodies and all round lovely people. The safari was worth every penny and I can’t wait until the next one… I’ve now just got to decide which safari will be next!
Gourmet Safaris Website
(02) 8969 6555
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