His Pizzateca pop-up is a regular presence at festival hubs such as Alpine Winter Village, Royal Croquet Club and, most recently, Tasting Australia’s Town Square. But Tony Mitolo’s heart lies firmly in McLaren Vale. The pizzaiolo (and former touring drummer for Empire of the Sun and Pnau) lives and works in the southern wine region, slinging “Oztalian” pizzas and making wine – under the label V. Mitolo & Son – alongside his father Vito.
After a series of successful pop-ups at Alpha Box & Dice, Pizzateca put down roots last year on a quiet strip of Chalk Hill Road, just five minutes from the Mitolos’ winery. “It’s an amazing region,” says Tony. “I miss the city sometimes … but [McLaren Vale] is so accessible. It’s a 40-minute drive away.” The proud local shares his favourite spots to eat, drink and shop.
“During the week this is my go-to for a decent coffee and a quick chat with locals and staff. Being in the heart of McLaren Vale you will most likely always bump into someone you know or a regular customer. The coffee is good, the service is quick and there are always smiles all round. If I’m on the run and haven’t had chance to grab any coffee or breakfast at home I don’t mind indulging in an almond croissant or a banana smoothie too.
On the weekends we start pretty early with prep so I usually wake up, head to the restaurant and put two or three large macchinettas on while I get the wood oven up. By the time the rest of the Pizzateca crew has waltzed in there is plenty of espresso to go around – short blacks only!”
The Salopian Inn
“Every now and then my partner Suzanne and I book in for a weekday lunch at the Salopian Inn. Head chef Karena [Armstrong] sources her vegetables from her home garden. The menu is seasonal and always a treat. When dining out I go for food that I can’t really cook at home and this ticks the boxes for me, especially the dumplings and pork buns. They have a huge selection of gin behind the bar too – I believe around 150. The wine cellar has some gems from a good selection of McLaren Vale producers. For us it’s a place close-by where we can relax, know the food is going to be on the level with great service, and a pleasant view looking over to Willunga.”
Alpha Box & Dice
“This is probably the closest cellar door in the Vale to a bar. It can feel like a second home at times. Good friends and good booze. I like to duck in here and catch up with Dylan [Fairweather] and the team from time to time. It usually involves a Zaptung or two, chatting about what’s happening in the Vale, general chit chat and gossip and conjuring up future party plans.”
The Old Bush Inn
“My favourite publicans, Gavin and Christina, took over this pub a few years back. Since then they’ve removed the pokie machines, tidied the place up and expanded the dining area without losing the character or feel of a good old country pub. The beer is always super cold and the schnitzel – with baked potato, sour cream and chives – reminds me of my mother’s home-cooked meals. I only wish the AFL embraced Monday night or Thursday night footy more often as there’s always a cosy spot at the bar that facilitates the “pint per quarter” rule extremely well.”
Willunga Farmers Market
"Before Pizzateca opened I would often go to the markets with my neighbour Scott. It was a great way to start the weekend – grab a coffee and check out the abundance of local producers who come in from all around the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu. There is a garlic producer who frequents the markets. I once got into a 30-minute conversation about all the different varieties he grows. I ended up buying eight of them and roasting them in a pan to compare the different flavour profiles of each variety. These sorts of experiences are all over the market if you want them. Get down there, buy local, and check it out if you haven’t already done so.”