In Mildura it seems you can’t escape Stefano de Pieri. The Italian immigrant who graduated Melbourne University in Politics and Italian Studies; worked as a newspaper editor and became private secretary to a Victorian Government Ethnic Affairs Minister has made the sun-blessed Victorian city his home on the Murray, and his influence is everywhere.
Stefano always dabbled in food and when he married in 1991 the newlyweds settled in Mildura and the effervescent ‘New Australian’ quickly dived headfirst into the local food scene. Helping out with the refurbishment of the historic landmark Grand Hotel, which has always been Mildura’s social epicentre, Stefano quickly became a champion of local food and wine.
He imagined writing a book that would merge his food memories of his native Veneto (the region surrounding Venice) with the produce of his newly adopted Mildura and before too long A Gondola on the Murray was published, which soon after became an ABC television series. This helped put Stefano and Mildura on Australia’s epicurean map and today he has his flagship restaurant (Stefano’s), the Café Bakery, Mildura Brewery, his own wine label and makes preserves that sell in places like David Jone’s Food Halls across Australia.
Café de Vine
According to their website, “Since 2010 Stefano’s Café Bakery has been in the hands of his brother-in-law, Mario Mammone and sister-in-law, Maria Carrazza. It is an informal space offering quality Vittoria coffee, breakfast, lunch and baked specialties, including natural baked bread. It is also a retail outlet for Stefano’s Preserves, olive oil, cook books, Murray River salt flakes and Table Top Grapes. Seasonal Friday night dinners and special events are a highlight.”
The Café Bakery is easy to find, being just behind the Grand Hotel, at the top of Deakin Avenue, the main street. You can’t miss it because it has a glorious off-footpath dining area covered by grape vines, which help take the edge off the sometimes-intense Mildura sun. I stopped by on my way to the Adelaide Show, parked Horizon’s compact Banksia across the road in one of the diagonal parking spots and nicked in for an early lunch.
Although there is a menu and table service, I agonized at the display cabinet inside for some minutes before selecting a chicken breast, avocado and roast vegetable focaccia, a fig frangipani tart and a freshly squeezed orange juice, all of which were delightful! The bill came to just $19, which was something of a bargain I thought, knowing how expensive Stefano’s signature restaurant is.
If you’re in Mildura, or even just passing through as I was, do yourself a slightly indulgent favour and stop by Stefano’s Café Bakery. The food quality is first class, the ‘sidewalk’ ambiance delightful and the prices not too steep. I’ll be back, not least because there were so many other treats calling to me when I left...
Stefano’s Café Bakery
27 Deakin Ave, Mildura. Vic. 3500
T: (03) 5021-3627
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