As first generation Italian Australians, Joe and Angela Staropoli grew up spoilt when it came to food. It’s no wonder then that the husband-and-wife team ventured into the food business, bringing the best of southern Italy to Yarraville, in the form of Cafe Terroni.
Joe and Angela’s parents are from Calabria and Sicily, so the duo independently experienced childhoods full of traditional Southern Italian flavours. Their love for their culinary heritage is reflected in the restaurant’s name, an expression used by northern Italians to describe their southern neighbours.
The business is well and truly family-based, with Joe managing the day-to-day operations and Angela handling the accounts, events and publicity.
Joe’s sister Maria works in the kitchen and Joe’s mum Tina even pops by from time to time to help out with some traditional favourites. This emphasis on family extends to the customers, which Joe and Angela treat as an extension of their own.
Petar Mardesic is the third piece of the puzzle, occupying the position of Head Chef. He joined the team in 2013, having worked at some of the best restaurants in Melbourne, including Circa under Michael Lambie and as Head Chef at Punch Lane. Fish, meat and vegetables are sourced daily from as many local producers as possible, ensuring only the freshest produce appears on your plate.
Together with his team, Petar produces an uncomplicated menu that maintains the simple processes and cuisine of the Italian kitchen. It reflects a resurrection of old recipes from regional towns, while also offering some new favourites into the mix.
See what all the fuss is about by ordering the antipasto del giorno – the chef’s selection of tastes served with house made grissini, before moving onto the cozze al pomodoro – pan-tossed Spring Bay mussels with garlic, herbs, tomato and chilli. From there, it’s an easy transition to the pastas, many of which are home-made. Try the traditional Gnocchi alla Sorrentina – house-made potato gnocchi baked with Napoli, basil and mozzarella or sample the filei con salsicci e anduja – Calabrian macaroni-style pasta with pork and fennel sausage, red peppers and spicy Calabrese sausage.
If pasta isn’t your preferred plate, sample the parmigiana di melanzane e ricotta – a traditional layered baked eggplant with ricotta cheese and tomato sugo. Carnivores will love the spallo di maiale brasato, which features slow-cooked pulled pork shoulder with braised fennel, tomato, olives and cannellini beans, accompanied by charred bread, crispy pancetta and a radicchio salad.
Once you’ve had your fill of savoury delights, turn to the dessert menu. The crispelle di banana con gelato is a satisfyingly sweet dish of warm banana and butterscotch crepes served with vanilla ice cream, while the tiramisu is just what you’d expect – traditional Italian savoiardi biscuits soaked in espresso coffee and Tia Maria liqueur, layered with mascarpone.
Cafe Terroni prides itself on a great wine list of local and Italian wines, striving to offer something special for all wine lovers. Customers often ask for recommendations from Joe, showing just how much trust they place in his experienced hands.