If you’re going to be at the All Nations Park in Northcote on March 19, better roll up your sleeves.
The family behind Grossi Florentino is hosting its third Melbourne Tomato Festival, celebrating Italian culture and heritage with its homage to a staple ingredient in kitchens throughout Italy – the tomato.
For Guy Grossi, owner and head chef at Grossi Florentino, the festival is a celebration of certain Italian rituals but it's also “symbolic of all cultures and traditions”.
“It’s the celebration of sharing the bounty of food,” he says.
To celebrate the summer tomato harvest, make your own passata by crushing some of the two tonnes of juicy tomatoes. Making tomato puree (used in everything from pasta to pizza to stews) is an Italian tradition, which the Grossi family practiced in Melbourne’s suburbs as children. Those gatherings, and memories of people connecting through food, are the inspiration for the festival.
“The passata-making day brings families together,” says Grossi. “Summertime comes and [the tomatoes] are bursting, and we love to take them and squeeze them.”
Grossi, as well as chefs Frank Camorra (Movida), Colin Fassnidge, Massimo Mele, Matt Wilkinson (Pope Joan) and Karen Martini, will host cooking demonstrations which showcase the diversity of the tomato across various cuisines from Spain to Ireland.
“It’s the thing that brings us together,” Grossi says, “the mighty tomato.”
The event includes gnocchi-making and wood-fired pizza demonstrations. Bruce Burton from Milking Yard Farm will run a talk on sustainable farming, and Melbourne Rooftop Honey will be there to discuss urban bee keeping.
There will also be a stand devoted to pezzo – the Italian pita pockets Grossi serves at Ombra, which are cut in half, then filled with meatballs or fried calamari or vegetables. (Grossi is opening a pezzo-only spot in the city later this year.) Food will also be provided by Gelato Tino, Saluministi, Bar Idda, Scott Pickett’s Deli, Burn City Smokers and Bar Nonno, among others.
Capi is returning with its tomato and basil Gin and Tonic, and the Napoleone family’s Punt Road wine and ciders will also be available.
Don’t forget your shopping bags. The pop-up market will showcase Melbourne Farmers Market stallholders so you can buy directly from Victorian farmers and growers.
The Tomato Festival is at All Nations Park in Northcote on March 19. Tickets are available online.