On a warm Sydney summer morning, it was arranged that we meet at Il Goloso Restaurant Haberfield which sits in the heritage listed old Post Office building on Dalhousie Street . I was to be part of a Haberfield Italian walking safari hosted by the gorgeous Maeve O’Meara of Gourmet Safaris and the wildly popular television series Food Safari.
This was my first venture into Haberfield as a “foodie” knowing little of the culinary heritage that sits in this inner west postcode, yet aware that we were about to embark on a tour that could quite literally change the way I shop.
Maeve O’Meara is a bright and vivacious character whose love for small producers and local high streets was quickly made evident by the passion she shared with us for heritage townships as we sat transfixed by her introduction, quietly sipping on espresso and latte. Haberfield was settled in the early 1900’s and marketed as a garden suburb enticing families out of the over crowded city to a slum-less and pub-less oasis with room for a quarter acre block. The Italian connection quickly flourished and along with the homes they occupied they also started a flourishing food trade.
Paesanella Cheese Shop
88 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
Move within a one hundred metre radius of the junction of Ramsey and Dalhousie Street in Haberfield and you will find a mecca of not just Italian food but Italian hospitality. The first stop on our gourmet safari had Maeve introduce us to Paesanella, a deli set up by the folks behind the delicious company that bears the same name. From their factory in Marrickville they produce the Italian soft cheeses that are now so familiar to our palate. This was not always the case with the founder of Paesanella, Umberto Somma , first producing his soft cheeses in the late 1950’s to a very small and mostly migrant clientele. Paesanella cheeses can now be found in most supermarkets around the country and is a brand synonymous with quality.
Fresh ricotta, burutta, mascarpone, and buffalo mozzarella are just a few of the offerings made fresh in the factory and available behind the deli counter on Ramsey street in Haberfield. Still warm from the making, ricotta is delivered fresh to the store to be picked up by the locals alongside other deli items like prosciutto, olive oils, balsamic vinegars and pasta.
Must try: If you are fortunate enough to be at the deli when the ricotta is delivered, buy it warm and at its most optimum. It has a delicate fluffy texture that is not present in chilled ricotta and is an absolutely pleasurable eating experience.
Franks Fruit Market
94A Ramsay Street, Haberfield
3-4 doors up from Paesanella is Franks fruit market, a tiny green grocers store that is owned and operated by Frank Bonfante. With no less than 16 varieties of tomatoes on any given day, Franks fruit market sure knows how to pack a whole lot of value into a limited floor space. Chances are if you were to visit this good old fashioned vege shop , the man himself Frank will greet you somewhere between the fresh borlotti beans and zucchini flowers with a warm smile and an offer of assistance.
Despite its relatively small stature, Franks store is big on sensational flavors, offering some of the more unusual but fairly usual Italian staples that make up their wonderful diet. Fresh plump figs share the shelves alongside sweet Italian Tropea onions, something that Frank believes will begin to grow in popularity as more people discover their glory. Australian grown and plaited garlic hang from the entrance way together with the ubiquitous bag of sweet navel oranges so commonly seen hanging la luna style in the green grocers shops that line the high street in some of Sydney’s older suburbs.
Must try: Pick up as many varieties of tomatoes as possible. The sweet Johnny love bite, acid free oxheart or juicy little cherry tomatoes. Frank will guide you on the perfect tomato for your dish or personal preferences.
Zanetti 5 star deli
108 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
Founded in 1957, Zanetti 5 star deli is a second generation family owned operation that has aisles bursting with Italian goods and is only metres up the road from where we left Frank and his garden of rosy reds. A long deli cabinet takes up one side of the store which has a wonderful selection of olives from the creamy and nutty green Sicilian olive right through to a huge kalamata that crunches like an apple when you bite down. We are told that they also do a few new olive flavour fusions including lemongrass kalamata to keep up with the changing tastes of their clientele. Angelo and his wife run this Haberfield institution and alongside their olive selection you will find carefully chosen pastas, oils and the salted fish bacala.
Must try: Head straight towards the deli cabinet for your perfect olive selection
Cassaniti Bakery AKA Haberfield Bakery
153 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
The Cassaniti family have been making Italian bread in Haberfield for nearly 45 years. Founded by Antonio and Agata Cassaniti the tradition of making top quality bread continues with their sons that now run the business. We entered the wood panel walled bakery to which Maeve went straight behind the counter, looking and searching for a familiar face. She was rewarded with a smile and bear hug from the matriarch of the family Agata who shared with us their families vision and commitment to producing bread that Italians love to eat.
One of their stand out successes is the rosetta roll which is perfect for melting butter in its hollow centre or filling with cured meats and cheese for a portable sandwich. As well as fresh bread they also make pizza bases and a selection of classic Italian sweets.
Must Try: Buy yourself a dozen rosetta rolls to eat fresh and a dozen to keep in the freezer for emergency bread eating moments
155 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
Quite possibly one of the more well known establishments along Ramsay Street, The Lamonica IGA is a bustling store filled to the brim with locals and helpful staff. With a fully operational butchery, where you can order your meat and have it sliced and tied by Tom the butcher and his team, the fresh meat cabinet is a great place if you are looking for hard to find Italian cuts.
By the time our gourmet safari made its way to the IGA it was 1230pm and the place was jumping. Nonnas were 4 deep at the deli cabinet ,and locals were chatting in the aisles. The deli cabinet is probably one of the most vibrant and busiest ones I’ve encountered with the secret to navigating the deli cabinet shared with us by one of the fabulous staff members.
When you first arrive to do your shopping, take a ticket for the deli cabinet from the ticket machine on the wall and then head off to do the rest of your shopping. By the time you have filled your basket or trolley with pastas, oils and vinegars, fresh produce and sweets, if you’re lucky, your number may be ready to be called. But judging by the queue we saw today, you may still have a few minutes to check your emails before you’re called up to the front to give over your order. They have a huge selection of meats,cheeses and antipasti ingredients and slice everything to order which means you are getting your goods at their very best.
If you are fond of panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas bread, this store prides itself on having a huge selection from the very reasonably priced $3 panettone to the extravagant but worth it $50 extravaganzas
Must Try: Try your luck from the deli cabinet and be part of the Haberfield history
I left our small group after a tasty lunch of pizza and pasta at our place of origin Il Goloso, and felt a wonderful sense of connection to a suburb that I may have ordinarily passed by. The gourmet safari experience was a glorious snapshot of a rich culinary heritage that leaves you inspired and more mindful to think globally but act locally.