My mother spent a lot of time in Sicily as a child. The stories have kept us enthralled at the dinner table for years. Tales of waking to the sound of street vendors selling soft cheeses and crusty ciabatta bread are always met with dreamy sighs. We groan with envy as my mother recalls warming herself with steaming bowls of ricotta on icy winter mornings. Many years later, my time in Sicily gave me my own sweet stories. Breakfast was a simple affair. We started the scorching summer days with creamy granita alla mandorla (almond granita), mopped up with hunks of sweet and fluffy brioche. Breakfast was a meal to be shared and the café down the road was swarming with locals. Everyone knew each other and they all ate together. Mio Locale or ‘My Local’ aims to be that for Melbourne. Whilst they don’t offer bowls of hot ricotta or almond granita for breakfast, nods to the mother country are scattered all across the menu.
This new North-side café is the first venture for brother/sister team Emily and Maurice Paladino. With strong Italian roots these two were into home grown veggies and flourishing fruit trees before all that became cool. This down-to-earth vibe and genuine love of great food sets Mio Locale apart. Here you’ll find everything Melbournians love in a café minus the pretension and oppressively long lines. A mature, muted fit-out sees glazed brick tiles meshed with grey concrete walls. But it’s the potted herbs and smell of espresso that will draw you in. We visited for breakfast in the hope that our dreams of a great Italian local would be met. We were very pleasantly surprised.
The menu is Melbourne-cool with a strong European edge. Think smashed avocado with hazelnuts and ricotta salata or chickpeas with salami, sugo and spinach. Traditionalists will love the breakfast bruschetta – dressed up with a garlic basil pesto, soft semi-grilled tomatoes and finished with pillows of fluffy ricotta. The lightness of this dish comes from the delightful fresh ingredients (like the sweet and fragrant tomatoes) and a smattering of garden herbs on top. It’s a beautiful way to start the morning.
The Worker’s Breakfast is also a good choice. This one is brimming with Italian favourites served alongside a hefty slice of ciabatta and a couple of wobbly poached eggs. But it’s the generous shavings of plump, pink prosciutto that really bring this dish to life. The saltiness of the meat pairs perfectly with the creamy ricotta and takes me back to brunches with the family when we ate nothing but cured meats and cheese. The tomato relish is also a nice addition. Made on site, it has all of those gorgeous tomato and herb flavours without the added sugar. A welcome change from the gluggy, overly sweet sauces usually served with eggs.
Health conscious types are not forgotten here and will head straight for the house made granola. Mio Locale’s version is a texturally satisfying mix of honey roasted nuts, seeds and shards of crunchy shredded coconut. Poached rhubarb and fresh strawberry slices finish it all off and give a welcome spark of tartness at the end. I left having wished I’d ordered this and nothing else – no mean feat given that that it’s just a simple granola. Those of you looking for pre-work boost will find it pretty perfect.
Mio Locale ticks all the boxes when it comes to an inner-city café offering Euro-inspired fare. The service is friendly, the atmosphere relaxed and most importantly the food is delicious. With its down to earth feel and simple dishes done well Mio Locale won’t stay quiet for long.