Italian deli-style sandwiches – traditionally loaded with salumi, cheese and antipasto – seem to be more popular in Melbourne than ever. In the past two years, we’ve seen Stefanino Panino go gangbusters in East Brunswick, old faithfuls like Yarraville’s Rocco’s Deli busier than ever, and Don’s pop-up Austin’s Ambrosia near-mastering schiacciata (a Tuscan flatbread) sandwiches.
Joining the fun is new Carlton North panini shop Spazio Paradiso. It’s the first hospitality venture from Jamie Georgopoulos and Meika Khong, who also own Collingwood hair salon Lvrs.
The idea to open a sandwich shop stemmed from the pair’s love for making and experimenting with paninis stuffed with meat and cheese from their favourite Melbourne delis at home. They were further inspired by a recent trip to Italy and are now selling out sandwiches before 12.30pm on weekends.
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There are eight sandwich combos, listed on brightly coloured paper plastered on the walls. The most popular is the mortadella, where mortadella is sliced thinly to order and neatly packed into a crunchy ciabatta roll with stracciatella, green split olives and crushed pistachios. Also on the menu: prosciutto with fior di latte and basil pesto; hot capocollo; fennel salami and provolone; porchetta; and grandmother ham with tomato pesto. The vego option is filled with roast capsicum, marinated eggplant, basil pesto, fior di latte and spinach; the vegan is similar, but with creamy house-made white bean cashew spread used in lieu of cheese.
Many of the sandwiches are classics. As Georgopoulos says, “at the end of the day, we’re referencing what Italy is famous for and has done for many years prior”. But there’s also the option to build your own sandwich, just like you might at an Italian paninoteca, with Georgopoulos, who makes all the sandwiches, on hand to guide you.
They’re all made with top produce including That’s Amore cheese, Marchetti Fine Foods’ cured meats and Palomba Antipasti pestos and antipasti. The rolls come from Natural Tucker Bakery, just 270 metres down the road, while a gluten-free alternative is sourced from specialist bakery Strada.
In addition to sangas, Spazio Paradiso stocks pasta sauces, taralli biscuits, capers and other pantry staples. Plus, there are take-home grazing boxes filled with meats, cheeses, antipasti, fruits and bread, which are great for picnics at nearby Edinburgh Gardens.
The shop’s design takes cues from old-world Mediterranean delis including Brunswick’s iconic Mediterranean Wholesalers. The lettering on the front window mirrors a deli docket, while inside it’s all milk-washed concrete and stainless steel.
But the quirkier features are what makes lining up here so fun: Neo-Greco-Roman sculptures and ornamental vases; arrangements of Australian natives foraged from the neighbourhood; garlic hanging at the counter; and upbeat party tunes booming in the background.
709 Nicholson Street, Carlton North
Wed to Sat 10.30am–2:30pm (or sold out)