A slice of Italy in the heart of the CBD

By Jack Hayes – Business Editor

Equitable Place is not the name that springs to mind when thinking of Melbourne’s famous lanes and arcades. 

It may not have the graffiti-sprawled walls of Hosier Lane or the terrazzo floor of Block Arcade. However, what it lacks in reputation and grandeur, it makes up for with simplicity and substance. 

This attitude is exemplified through an authentic Italian approach to hospitality from Equitable Place’s newest player, Valentini Caffe-E-Vini. 

After selling his business in September 2018, Valentini Caffe-E-Vini owner Luigi Valeri spent the best part of last year searching the streets of Melbourne for the perfect venue. 

“When I came across this place, it wasn’t what you would call 100 per cent. I chose it because of the beautiful lane and the fact that there are no other Italian restaurants,” Mr Valeri said.

“I’ve only been here for six months, so it is going to take some time to figure out who our customers are and what they like.”

“We set ourselves apart from others because we offer great quality coffee, traditional food and above all, the kind of hospitality that turns customers into regulars.”

A proud Australian-Italian, Mr Valeri’s journey to Melbourne is not your typical migration story. 

Growing up in New South Wales, Mr Valeri and his family travelled back to Italy when he was four, where he would spend much of his early years. That was until a natural disaster uprooted his life. 

“An earthquake hit my home in the north of Italy on May 6, 1976. I lost everything and was very lucky to save my life,” Mr Valeri said. “After a year trying to find my feet, I thought to myself ‘I want to see where I was born’. So, I packed everything I had and moved back to Australia.”

“I spent six months learning English at university, then immediately started working. My first job was with at Donnini’s on Lygon St in 1978 – that was where I found my passion. Working with and around food is my passion, and always will be.”

Mr Valeri’s refined approach to home-style Italian is a refreshing change in the fast-food laden streets of the CBD. 

Showcasing the best produce from Victoria and Italy, Valentini’s follows a simple mantra; less is more. Simple, fresh ingredients combine to create unique meals bursting with flavour. 

“What we are trying to make is home-style food but turn the ordinary into extraordinary,” said head chef Gigi Buono. 

“We take two to three main ingredients and turn them into something that is going to give comfort and joy. It is a southern approach to Italian cooking that is much lighter and fresh.”

Stepping into Valentini’s, it is abundantly clear Mr Valeri, and Mr Buono love what they do, and that dedication is reflected through their food and hospitality. 

You can find Valentini Caffe-E-Vini and its giant mural painted by Italian artist Giorgio Marzo, paying homage to Melbourne at 12 Equitable Place. 

It is open Monday to Friday from 7am to 6pm, and Saturday 7am to 2pm •

For more information: valentinicaffeevini.com.au

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