As anyone on holiday in Rome wandering the streets in desperate search of eggs can tell you, Italians don’t really go in for brunch. Anything more substantial than an espresso and a pastry is unusual.
So Via Porta in Mont Albert is breaking relatively new ground.
“Obviously brunch is not something that's massive in Italy,” says chef Simon Cosentino, who owns Via Porta with siblings Ryan (chef), Jonathan (front of house) and Sarah (interior designer).
And as it turns out, southern-Italian flavours marry pretty well with mornings – and with a little French influence, too. Cosentino, who honed his skills working with Philippe Mouchel at French eateries PM24 and the now-closed Brasserie, is preparing dishes such as a Scotch egg with a gooey centre encased in a sausage and crumb crust and accompanied by a salad of shaved brussels sprouts, pancetta and candied walnuts. And fried eggs in a spicy Arrabiata sauce, which is given an intense lift with ‘nduja, garlic and peppers.
There’s a full basement baking operation, too, turning out both French- and Italian-influenced baked goods. The latter tend to run a little softer and sweeter, often infused with citrus and vanilla flavours. The bakery supplies carb components for the cafe menu, such as a brioche-croissant hybrid (“briont”) for French toast. The bread is soaked for 24 hours and served with caramalised apple, speculoos (a spiced biscuit) and vanilla custard.
Lighter is the open sandwich, topped with molasses-cured salmon and sharp, salty pickled celery on house-baked dark rye; a classic cheese omelette; or crumpets by Dr Marty's topped with house-made strawberry and Cointreau jam, or orange marmalade.
Coffee comes from Five Senses and a rotating cadre of guest roasters. There’s batch and cold brew, too, and a handful of wines by the glass or carafe to pair with salumi.
The family’s southern-Italian heritage is also reflected in the fit-out. Sarah is co-owner of design house Studio Esteta. Esteta is responsible for the look of the 50-seater space, which leans heavily on pale, sun-bleached stone and pink-toned wooden finishes. Pleasingly symmetrical displays of house-made olives, pickles and sauces line the shelving, along with upmarket pantry staples.
Wrap up your visit with a pit stop at the deli fridge, which holds some 50 Australian and Italian cheeses, plus loads of excellent charcuterie (try the imported Italian mortadella). There’s a rotating menu of prepared meals to take home, too, such as chicken cacciatore and eggplant parmigiana.
For now it’s breakfast and lunch only, but there are plans to open for dinner in late November.
677 Whitehorse Road, Mont Albert
(03) 8256 4866
Mon to Sat 7am–5pm