When Stefanino Panino opened in a no-frills, temporary spot on Lygon Street last year, it quickly captured the hearts and stomachs of Brunswick East locals, who had the place selling out almost daily.
One and a half years on, Stef Condello and his mum Diana Condello, who run the shop together, have relocated to a bigger, more permanent site in Collingwood Yards, where they’ll be able to pump out way more rolls each day. “The volume grew a lot faster than I was ready for,” Stef tells Broadsheet.
“Doing 350 [panini] on that last day [in the old shop], the space was absolutely destroyed at the end of it … here we’ll be able to meet demand. We won’t be selling out at 12.30pm.”
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The new kitchen gives them the opportunity to amp up the offering – now roasting the beef and porchetta (with crackling) on-site and introducing espresso coffee. Soon there’ll be affogato, sandwich specials and (when the liquor licence arrives early next year) evening small plates.
He also plans to bring a second bread supplier on board, in addition to Carlton North’s Natural Tucker Bakery. “Too many other sandwich shops are hitting them up,” says the sandwich maestro. “I’m talking to another bakery about a signature roll that a competitor won’t be able to get access to.”
Melbourne isn’t short on sandwich shops, but Stef’s fresh, Italian-leaning panini built on premium produce have struck a chord with sandwich devotees. The fillings take inspiration from the food he grew up eating – although they’ve levelled up a bit. “The [Bologna with] mortadella, stracciatella, olives and pickled peppers is a classic. But we used to use Philadelphia spread, not stracciatella,” he laughs.
The former ceramics studio has had a makeover by architects Simulaa. It’s worlds apart from the DIY aesthetic of the Lygon Street site – with a slick new counter made of mismatched marble offcuts and burgundy and mint tiling, retro-style timber cladding, an espresso bar, and indoor and outdoor seating – but the laid-back vibes of the original remain.
“The idea is to be fairly classic … representative of a trattoria or smaller cafe in Italy,” says Stef. There are still a few remnants from Lygon Street, including the smallgoods fridge, the bench seat, and his collection of cassette tapes (Roy Orbison, Sade, Barry White, Metallica and Iron Maiden among them) which will be played through a vintage Nakamichi 250 car tape player.
Stef is also stoked to help activate the precinct during the day. “We’re excited to be here and breathe new energy into this space … The fact there was no daytime offering here doesn’t make any sense.
“I plan to bring a much more relaxed vibe,” he adds. “Which is why I’m using Genovese coffee. It’s not a trendy one, which is what I like about it … The idea is to bring a more understated offering.”
Stefanino Panino opens today with a limited menu of its best-selling items – Bologna, Il Manzo, Parma, Il Pollo, Verdure (vegetarian) and Il Bosco (vegan).
Collingwood Yards, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Tue to Fri 9am–4pm