Currently, so soon after opening, there’s one main type of customer at The Craft & Co: confused.
Take a seat near the broad entrance and you’ll see people wander in uncertainly, like they don’t know if they’re allowed inside. Either they’ve spotted the gleaming copper distillery in the window, or just been drawn in by the buzz of lunch conversation.
A red-shirted greeter never takes long to show up and deliver a cheery, “Welcome to The Craft & Co!” But that’s the easy bit. There’s really no fast or easy way to explain the sprawling, multi-faceted venue to the uninitiated.
That’s because the two-storey warehouse contains a cafe, restaurant, bar, 120-litre distillery, 1000-litre brewery, wood-fired bakery – still with us? – bottle shop, grocery store, cheese-making room, charcuterie-making room and six-kilogram coffee roaster.
Owner Paul Baggio calls it a “Disneyland for food”.
“We see this as an ode to food and beverage production,” he says. “We don’t want it to be just classified as a restaurant with a brewery in it, or a cafe with a coffee roaster in it.”
The idea is that The Craft & Co’s various facets will be staffed by aspiring “makers” who will produce most of the in-house products, from beer and vodka to cheese and coffee. Understandably, some of these processes (brewing, distilling) have been slow to get off the ground.
For now, charcuterie is being handled by James Mele of The Meat Room in Kilmore East and Bernard Holbery, winner of Salami Festa 2014. Letizia Terlato has been supplying tuma (a type of cheese) and ricotta to head chef and permanent staff member, Dom Marzano.
His menu has an Italian slant (his last gig was at Grossi Florentino) with dishes such as ricotta gnocchi and arancini backed by lamb ribs, a steak sandwich and spaghetti marinara. Then there are three simple pizzas and 30-gram serves of charcuterie or cheese.
Breakfast is a bit harder to pigeonhole, with a zucchini-and-mint omelette appearing next to toast dishes, Bircher muesli and a long list of sides.
By night, there’s a lengthy spirits list, wines from mostly young vineyards and plenty of craft beer. With the exception of Tromba tequila, everything is made in Australia.
Upstairs, behind the cocktail bar, the retail section stocks all manner of small-batch pantry items, from jams, vinegars and olive oils, to smoking woodchips, pasta and chocolate.
The Craft & Co
390 Smith Street, Collingwood
(03) 9417 4755
Mon to Wed 7am‒4pm
Fri & Sat 7am‒11pm