Fluffy focaccia, often served in thick slabs, has become a fixture on almost every menu around Melbourne. But at new South Yarra focacceria Zita’s, owners Sara Pestarino and Riccardo Guglietti offer a style less common in Australia.

“People expect focaccia to be soft and spongy,” Pestarino tells Broadsheet. But she’s from Genoa, a region of Italy known for flat leavened bread. The region’s most famous iteration is focaccia Genovese, a soft, thin bread typically studded with olives.

Her business partner Guglietti is from Rome, where focaccia is a typical street food, thicker than the style found in Genoa, and usually sliced in half and stuffed with cured meats.

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At Zita’s, you’ll find the Genovese-style olive focaccia served by the slice, alongside a simpler version with no toppings and another laced with squacquerone cheese (a soft crumbly cheese from the Emilia-Romagna region). Though Australian flour and the Australian climate mean Zita’s focaccias differ from what you find in Genoa, the recipe’s foundation is based upon one Pestarino learned from her grandmother, for whom the shop is named.

The filled focaccias follow a different recipe, one built on a high-hydration dough for a light, crisp finish that stands up to fillings like mortadella and ’nduja, stracciatella and squid or saucy eggplant parmigiana. The dough is fermented for 36 to 38 hours, semi-baked each morning then baked once more to serve to keep it from going limp before it hits the customer.

Sandwiches includes Nonna’s Favourite, a classically Italian combo of capers, arrosto (roast) sauce and vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal); and the Roman Empire, a rich number piled with stracciatella, artichoke sauce, mortadella and pistachios.

“We both grew up eating this kind of sandwich in the middle of the street,” Pestarino says of herself and Guglietti. “When we opened, we [wanted] to do something that gives that feeling.”

There are also a few seasonal items like the fish cotoletta (breaded and fried fish), cabbage and pecorino focaccia, which is made with panko-crumbed sardines.

With room for 24 inside and out and a queue that often gathers before doors even open, most customers order takeaway. But there is a spritz menu for those looking to linger in the sunny window or out the front under a canary-yellow-and-white-striped umbrella. Choose from options like a bright berry spritz made with house-made strawberry syrup, vodka and elderflower and a limoncello spritz made with Tommy’s Booze.

Zita’s Focaccia & Drinks
16 Toorak Rd, South Yarra
9191 9092

Wed to Sun 12pm–8pm