Marrickville cafe Tita is a love letter to non-traditional Filipina aunties.

It’s by siblings and Donut Papi owners Kenneth Rodrigueza and Karen Rodrigueza-Labuni, along with Christopher Palamara. Tita is inspired by the siblings’ late Tita Marlene, who was “not your typical tita”.

“How do I say this without being cancelled?” Rodrigueza asks Broadsheet. “Titas in the Philippines can be really … opinionated. Tita Marlene wasn’t like that at all. She was really supportive; she was a lesbian with a partner and two adopted kids. I think this place embodies her because she was a modern Tita.”

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If Tita Marlene was modern, so too is this take on a Filipino carinderia. Traditionally a carinderia is a street-side or open-air eatery that often has the day’s offerings in bubbling large pots over gas hobs. The stalls are also known as “turo-turo”, meaning “point-point”, because of how customers order by pointing at the pots.

“Tita is a cafe setting: you order at the counter, sit down and we prepare the food fresh. It’s a bit of extra care and service over a normal carinderia.”

Those familiar with Filipino breakfast fare will recognise the array of silogs, a portmanteau that comes from the dish’s ingredients: sinangag (fragrant garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg, which in this case is fried with golden-crisp edges). Protein is added to the eggs-and-rice base. For example, tapsilog has tapa (thinly sliced beef), longsilog adds longanisa (house-made pork sausage) and adosilog is topped with decadent pork adobo.

On weekends Luisa Brimble, award-winning food photographer and member of the Australian chapter of the Filipino Food Movement, bakes fresh pandesal (soft, buttery rolls that are a staple in the Philippines). They’re prime for spreads like cheese pimiento (starring house-made jersey milk kesong puti) or coconut jam. Or stuff them with corned beef, ube (purple yam) and cheese.

Brimble’s buns will also shine in Filipino breakfast sandwiches. There’s a Spam, egg and cheese combo; longanisa egg and cheese; and a vegan longanisa with hashbrowns. The secret sauce is not so secret: a mix of mayonnaise and banana ketchup.

Gabriel Coffee is used for all the standards plus custom drinks like the Manila latte: vanilla and condensed milk with coffee over ice. It’s best served with one of the exclusive Filipino-leaning doughnuts from Donut Papi. Or one of the contemporary desserts: bibingka (baked rice cake) burnt Basque cheesecake; vibrant ube soft serve; or birthday cake polvoron – a Filipino shortbread made with toasted flour, sugar, powdered milk and butter.

Tita – which replaces the trio’s former cafe Gluten Free Friends – with its sunny yellow walls and bright oilcloth-covered tables is one of a growing movement of Filipino eateries opening in Sydney.

“Our generation is the second generation of Filipinos. Our parents were trying to survive, to make it here in Australia. Because of that, we have the privilege to do whatever we want. There’s not much risk on our shoulders, which means we have the confidence to celebrate Filipino food and open businesses.”

Shop 4/359 Illawarra Road, Marrickville

Wed to Fri 9am–4.30pm
Sat & Sun 9am–3pm