Growing up in Australia, if you found yourself in a pie shop you were probably having a good time.
It’s that kind of nostalgia that Aaron Donato, co-owner of Footscray’s Pie Thief, wants to tap into.
“It’s always associated with a happy memory. You don’t look back at pie shop memories and think, ‘Geez, that was a bad time’,” Donato tells Broadsheet.
The shop is tiny, with just a few seats, but it's mostly geared towards takeaway. It has a bright colour palette of aqua, pink and yellow. Painted on the front counter is the official Pie Thief mascot, a misty-eyed little monster gazing up at the pies passed across the marble countertop.
The chef (and other co-owner) is Scott Blomfield, who worked as head chef at Mighty Boy and Grub Fitzroy, and as chef de partie at Supernormal before heading overseas to spend time cooking in France and Mexico. Returning to Melbourne, Blomfield became a regular at Donato’s other project, Bar Josephine (right next door to Pie Thief). The pair bonded over a love of pies.
“I travel suburbs for pies and I’ve always had this weird pipe dream that I want to open a pie shop. But I’m not a chef,” says Donato. “When I said that over a beer, Scotty said, ‘Me too,’ and I went, ‘Oh well, I guess we gotta’.”
The menu starts with familiar fillings: steak and cheese, bacon and egg. But it quickly veers in its own direction with a lasagne pie, a Thai red-chicken-curry version, and a vegan option with pumpkin, tofu and faux cheddar.
“The Thai red chicken was the first pie that Scott showed me,” Donato says. “All I could think when he bought that over was, ‘Okay, alright. We can make this work. This is fucking delicious’.”
But it’s the lasagne pie that Donato describes as one of the best things he’s ever eaten. His dad’s side of the family is Italian, so for him it hits all the nostalgia buttons.
“It’s taken all the best things about lasagne – the crunchy corner, the cheesy top and a great bolognaise – and put it into a pie. The lid is lasagne with bechamel and a crunchy cheese top, and it’s filled with a really glorious bolognaise.”
All the pies here are available in smaller, party-pie form, and if you can’t decide you can order a party-pie tasting paddle of four flavours for $12.
Sausage rolls come in pork and fennel, and chicken parma, the latter with chicken mince, bacon and napoli on the inside, and more napoli and mozzarella on top.
All the pastry is made in-house, as is the old-school vanilla slice, which rounds out the menu. To drink, there’s hot Milo and milkshakes in chocolate, peanut butter and strawberry.
If you’re looking for something a little more grown-up, a 25-seat cocktail bar is in the works behind the store. There’s no official opening date for that just yet, but the plan is to open the bar by late November. You might have to settle for a pie in the meantime.
297 Barkly Street, Footscray
Mon to Sat 7am–4pm
This article was first published on June 25, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication. This article was updated on August 27, 2019 at 5.17pm.