Both Haberfield and Five Dock have a proud tradition as a gathering place for the Italian community. There might be regular festivals (the annual early August Ferragosto in Five Dock is a case in point), but it’s also clearly reflected in the popular flavours of the area. But scratch the surface and there’s more than a wealth of Mediterranean flavours. As we found on our quest for a cheap and cheerful lunch, Haberfield has everything from fish ’n’ chips to pho.

  1. Chicken schnitzel ciabattini at Pasticceria Papa – $7.50
    145 Ramsay Street, Haberfield

It’s given when you come to Haberfield that you’ll pop into this bustling confectionery store and bakery. People range from far and wide for Pasticceria Papa’s ricotta cake, the custard filled zuccherati and the range of cannoli, but savoury lunch here is a treat of its own, with slices of pizza for $4.50 and an array of filled rolls and ciabattini (little ciabatta). The chicken schnitzel ciabattini is bursting with cheese, tomato, lettuce, eggplant and capsicum and a hearty schntz. Order and pay at the counter and then hustle for a seat.

  1. Pizza breads at Cassaniti Bakery –$3 to $4
    153 Ramsay Street, Haberfield

This tiny, family-run bakery might not have a sign, but you can’t miss the throng of people flocking in and out, and the warm smells alone are enough to drag you in off the street. Inside, it’s all about shelves full of freshly baked bread. Fresh pies, sausage rolls and arancini in the pie warmer are inviting enough (particularly the potato and beef at $4), but puffy little rounds of pizza bread make a great takeaway lunch. Varieties change, but the olive with juicy black kalamatas ($3), or the mushroom with plenty of cheese ($3.50) are winners. There’s no eat-in option, so you’ll have to find a sunny spot in the park up the road, but it’s worth it, and they sell out quickly.

  1. Fresh pressed caciotta cheese at Paesanella – $4.99
    88 Ramsay Street, Haberfield

These guys are the Haberfield shopfront for the Paesanella Marrickville factory, which is famous for its buffalo mozzarella and burrata. It might be deli-style, but it’s easy to pick a couple of things and create a gourmet takeaway lunch for under $10. There’s a huge array of cheeses, olives and crispbread to pick from. Taralli olive oil biscuits ($4.99) and an individual little basket of freshly pressed chilli and rocket caciotta ($4.99) make a great lunch.

  1. Spinach and ricotta roll at Tamborrino – $4
    75 Great North Road, Five Dock

Another one of the much-loved pastry bakeries, Tamborrino is well known for making extravagant cakes and delightful sweets. You can eat in for filled roll lunches, but the takeaway spinach and ricotta roll is a salty, flaky pastry lunch that’s a well kept secret. Add to it a sweet little alcoholic rum baba ($1.50 for a small) or a shell shaped sfogliatelle ($1.50 for a small) and you’ve got a two-course lunch for under $10.

  1. Lunch special pasta at The Greenhouse Café – $10
    108b Great North Road, Five Dock

Looking for an old-fashioned lunch special? This friendly local with plenty of outdoor seating offers a tight selection of $10 pasta lunches. Regulars include penne with eggplant, or spaghetti e olio (with olive oil and garlic), which keep this place busy at lunchtime. You might even be offered a complimentary sweet treat when you’re done.

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  1. Fish ‘n’ chips at Great North Seafood – $8.70
    98 Great North Road, Five Dock

This is your typical local fish ‘n’ chip shop, featuring fresh fish while doing a brisk trade in hot chips and seafood. The takeaway boxes are a great lunchtime treat, with big pieces of crispy beer battered white fish and a hearty box of crunchy, fresh chips. Add a slathering of tartar sauce and it’s a perfect sneaky lunch.

  1. Pork roll at Nam Viet Hot Bread – $4.50
    113 Great North Road, Five Dock

This cosy Vietnamese bakery does fresh, crusty white bread and fluffy looking sweets. But it’s the side cabinet of sliced pork, pate, fresh greens and herbs that looks like lunch to us. You can get chicken rolls ($5), but locals swing by for the Vietnamese pork, with pressed deli meat, pate, roast pork, carrot and salad greens all stuffed into one of those fluffy-in-the-middle, crunchy-on-the-crust, white bread rolls that make it a textural mouthful.

  1. Donburi lunch special at Okonomy – $10
    123 Great North Road, Five Dock

Adding some Japanese (beyond the sushi variety) to the lunch mix just shows the scope of what’s available on the Great North Road eat strip. At diminutive little Okonomy, they display a special lunch menu that includes $10 donburi with miso. Teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables or barbecue beef make a filling lunch for a cooler day, plus there’s tofu curry donburi for a tasty vegetarian option too.

  1. Lunch pho tai at Nha Tranh Restaurant – $9.90
    213–217 Great North Road, Five Dock

The lunch specials at Nha Tranh start at $7.50 and there’s a neat list of pho to choose from. If you’re feeling outrageous (and can stretch the budget to $10.90) then the deluxe noodle soup (pho dac biet) with the lot – including tendons, tripe and beef balls – is for you. A Haberfield favourite is the pho tai, with thinly sliced flank steak, served up in abundant bowls of fragrant broth with plenty of chilli.

  1. Coffee granita and brioche at Cremeria de Luca – $7
    84 Ramsay Road, Five Dock

Coffee granita and brioche is actually a Sicilian breakfast, but they serve it all day at Cremeria de Luca. Granita-style iced coffee is served with a dense head of slightly sweetened, fresh-whipped cream and a puffy, fluffy sweet brioche bread bun on the side. The idea is to tear up the brioche and dip it into the creamy granita as you go. It’s definitely an indulgent breakfast or lunch – and you get your coffee fix thrown in. There are also chocolate and lemon granitas on offer if you want to eschew the coffee and as the weather warms up there’s the promise of strawberry and pistachio flavours too.