“It was gonna be called Maltadella,” says Jake Cassar of the deli he’s just opened. Like the deli itself, the portmanteau of Malta and mortadella captures his heritage and the cold cut he loves. “But we thought people wouldn’t get it.”
Deciding it had a better ring to it, he settled on Mortadeli as the name for his new ’60s-inspired Mediterranean deli in Torquay on Victoria’s Surf Coast.
The menu is a little less mortadella-heavy than its name might suggest, but lovers of the supreme smallgood can still find it in a toastie with melty mozzarella and Manchego, the crust slathered with smoky tomato cultured butter; or layered up with ’nduja, sopressa, smoked ham, provolone and guindillas in the want-for-nothing conti roll.
What’s quickly gained signature status, though, is a sandwich Jake says, “every Maltese person takes to the beach”. The hobz-biz-zejt is tuna with kunserva (Maltese tomato paste – “it has to be that”, he says), olives, capers, salted ricotta and pickled red onion on fluffy Pasta Dura bread. It’s drawn Torquay’s Maltese population out of the woodwork. “We’re meeting 10 to 12 [people] a day that we didn’t even know were here.”
Also on the menu: pastrami on dark rye with “babcia’s” caraway kraut; a rhymey roasted-cauli and burrata ciabatta; and a sausage-and-egg roll with American cheese.
But unlike some other modern delis-by-name, it also sells cold cuts (sliced onsite and vacuum-sealed in takeaway packs). That includes three different mortadella brands – right now, the fail-safe Princi from WA, as well as the smaller-batch Mr Cannubi from Ballarat and LP’s Quality Meats from Sydney.
The 40-square-metre deli’s old-timey design is loosely based on an alimentari (grocer) in Cefalù, a beautiful coastal town in northern Sicily. “The classic [orange-and-white] chequerboard flooring was a major must – you see it all over Italy,” says Jake’s sister, Kayla, who helped him out with the conception. There’s also an open sanga-making station and a sweeping window that gives the space a nice airiness. Despite Mortadeli being the building’s first tenant, it already feels lived in.
Lemony yellow milk bar-style shelves (and a fridge) are stacked with a mix of local and imported goods. Expect cheese from Melbourne’s Savour and Grace, and Calendar Cheese; City Larder terrine; Borgo smallgoods; and locally made condiments and drinks. Plus, Italian pasta and polenta, and Spanish Ortiz sardines and white anchovies.
A pie warmer is filled with flaky pastizzi from the Original Maltese Pastizzi Co (“I reckon I’ve tried all the pastizzi in Melbourne and these are the best”, says Jake) and Pie Thief pies. The pastizzi are also available frozen, as are ravjul (Maltese ravioli) and pierogi.
Kayla, a graphic-design whiz, has also created some very purchasable merch. There are colourful totes emblazoned with “Mortadeli” in block letters, and a tee this mortadella fan has gotta have. On its back: a cartoon man riding a bike, except the wheels are logs of mortadella and he’s clutching a larger-than-life baguette in surfboard-like fashion.
Shop 8 4-6 Gilbert Street, Torquay
Tue to Sat 8am–4pm
This article was updated on December 15, 2021. Menu items may have changed since the date of publication.