Minimum pretentiousness, maximum taste is the philosophy of Ultimo cafe Little Livi, opened by newly formed hospo consultancy business Heirloom Hospitality. The three-member team is Daniel Leyva (who was head chef at city fine-diner The Bridge Room 2015–2017), Sam Mammoliti (former owner of Glenhaven’s 42 Bannerman Trattoria e Bar) and Amadeo Vazquez Sanchez (who was operations manager at Collective Roasting Solutions before opening Melbourne’s Gold Drops Coffee). Mammoliti is the admin and logistics guy, Sanchez does coffee and Leyva’s domain is the kitchen.

Leyva uses Brooklyn Boy Bagels dough to make kouign-amann, a crunchy, flaky and buttery French pastry, and serves it alongside dishes including a porchetta that’s slow-roasted for 24 hours, air-dried overnight and then roasted again to create the crackling. Little Livi’s take on the egg-and-bacon roll trades the bacon for thick-cut, crisped-up mortadella and piles on top a soufflé egg cake, which looks a little like a hash brown.

It was Leyva’s plan to represent the building owners and their Lebanese heritage by serving Baalbek eggs (eggs cooked in flatbread) and their mama’s chicken rice. “All the kids in the [landlord’s] family were talking about this chicken rice their mum does,” says Leyva. “She explained [to me] how she does it, I did a bit of research and served it to her. She had her game face on and then she was like, ‘[It’s] better than mine’.”

It’s one of the cafe’s most popular orders, made by mixing rice with confit lamb, shredded chicken, lots of nuts, and served with hummus and pita on the side.

Sanchez designed the house roast for the cafe’s milk coffees (it’s a blend of beans from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia) and decides on the rotating single-origin roast for filters (Edition was on while we were there). Punters kept asking for caramel lattes, and instead of being barista snobs, the Little Livi team decided to make them a speciality. “In Australia we’re a bit stubborn – ‘Oh no, we don't do that.’ … As soon as I'd said, ‘No, sorry, we don’t have caramel lattes’ twice, we decided to make our own,” says Leyva.

Rather than simply buying caramel syrup, they make theirs in-house, mixing in espresso grinds to create a bittersweet and smoky syrup. “We want to be approachable; the demographic here is really diverse. We want to have a voice and deliver high-quality [drinks and food], and we never want to push people away,” says Sanchez.

The trio did the simple fit-out themselves, scraping the walls to show off several layers of paint from previous tenants. There’s a flash marble countertop and a lot of natural light, plus a colonial facade that makes the place feel homey.

Little Livi
63 Mountain Street, Ultimo

Hours:
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat 8.30am–2.30pm

littlelivi.com.au