Photography by Julia Sansone
When you walk into many Italian restaurants in Melbourne, it can often feel like an ode to Italy’s history moreso than a celebration of its modern day culture. Nestled alongside Sydney Road, however, is the neon glow of Ciao Mamma! – a vibrant and contemporary perspective on the Italian taste as we know it.
Upon walking into the venue, a cherry red pasta maker shines through the window, opaqued by a cloud of flour and fast-moving hands wringing tagliatelle from the machine. With both pasta and sauce made fresh daily in the kitchen, Ciao Mamma!’s focus is on a humble yet casual dining experience that’s accessible for everyone.
Italians call it pasta d’autore – where one creates their own personal combination of pasta plate. From the Ortolana sauce – featuring seasonal roasted vegetables – to the Mushroom Maria, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure for your tastebuds, where every choice ends with a hand-made and home-cooked meal.
The heart of Ciao Mamma! lies within Tina Tonio, who decided to take a leap of faith into her life-long passion of cooking after teaching Italian for 30 years. With the venue’s name serving as an ode to grandmothers and mothers alike, every item on the menu is an heirloom Italian recipe with a modern-day invigoration.
Staying true to its Brunswick roots, the lunch and dinner venue offers local Brunswick Bitter – as well as Australian wines and produce from independent meat and cheese importers across Melbourne.
Arancini balls, baked olives, salumi, “Nonna Style” chips and house focaccia are spotted amongst every table within the venue – because no guest of an Italian family leaves feeling only slightly full. Plus, with gluten-free and vegan produce as proud additions to the menu, every stomach gets fed at Ciao Mamma!.
The relentless Aperol Spritz craze takes a twist in the hands of the bartenders here, offering a different Italian contender to the table: the Montenegro Spritz. Packed with a crisp and refreshing punch, drinks like Crodino or Sanbitter are the perfect combination of a bitter-sweet symphony for someone who is ready to take their taste buds to the next level.
Finish your slice of Italy off with a piece of Tina-Mi-Su, Nutella mousse or a famous caffe crema, followed closely by an espresso – it’s one of the few Italian traditions that not even the most modern eateries can let go of. Ciao Mamma! has quickly become exactly that: Brunswick’s new ritual that many will hold close to home.