La Bussola’s been there forever. Its glossy brown bricks and wrought-iron gates; its faux-marble salad bar and curly red neon; the wood fire are all heritage Brunswick. But, like its pizzas and parmas, its original owners were getting a bit tired. Luckily, this classic Italian eatery hasn’t been razed for another eight-story apartment building. Instead, a local crew is conserving the old restaurant under a (sort of) new name: Compass.
The team behind neighbourhood favourites Wesley Anne, The Edinburgh Castle and The Charles Weston (formerly the Sporting Club) has taken over, preserving the kind-of-incredible mid-century interior and its equally mid-century (though less incredible) menu. The list looks much as it would have in 1973: Capricciosa nestles with the Aussie pizza, while the mains include Scallopini, Marinara and Schnitzel. “The whole idea was that we wanted to keep their business going,” says partner and front-of-house manager, Sarah Davidson. “We didn’t want to change it dramatically.”
Like any good conservationists, however, they’re subtly improving the foundations, trading in tinned vegetables for local produce, emphasising organic and free-range and building an off-menu range of contemporary specials. “Initially we were changing the quality of the food, improving the produce that goes into it,” says Davidson. “We have our own values, and we only want to use free-range and all those sorts of things that are in our venues.”
A distinctly party vibe is developing in the new/old joint, which is aided by a selection of local craft beers such as Two Birds and Australian Italian varietals including Pizzini Sangiovese. A wider selection of crafts and wines is on the way soon.
Pizza, of course, is still on the menu, from what Compass is billing as “Brunswick’s only electric pizza oven”. Head chef Joseph Nauer is kneading and throwing them himself, and making all the sauces from scratch. For $15 a pizza that’s tastier than anybody’s business, it hardly matters if it’s not cooked at 400 Gradi for 90 secondi, does it … ?
319 Lygon Street, Brunswick East