The thing I love most about Pure Italian? That it’s jammed right up next to a Pizza Hut. Oh the irony.
Pure Italian is situated in a not-very-interesting intersection in Balwyn, which makes it all the more transporting, this spirited Italian cafe in what looks like humdrum surrounds.
Inside you’ll find a cosy, split-level, woody interior and a gingham-lined cabinet heaving with anti pasto supertreats. While the front room feels most definitely like a cafe, step down into the back room to feel like you’re in someone’s home. There are books on the mantelpiece, black-and-white photos on the wall and a peekaboo kitchen for a hungry bird’s-eye view.
Menu-wise, breakfasts span the classic egg options, but it’s lunch when things get more interesting. An ever-changing daily menu consists of a soup (say, cream of cauliflower with balsamic and crispy pancetta), some excellent bruschettas, spunky plated trios like speck, melon and pecorino or salmon carpacccio with chilli gremolata and mint broad beans, and homely staples like spinach and ricotta cannelloni or a papardelle with duck ragu.
For foodie commitment-phobes, you can cherrypick your way around the sensational range of anti pasto (with a stack of vegetarian options), or get them to curate a plate for you if you like a surprise. Chances are you’ll end up with a jewel-box plate of balsamic-drizzled bocconcini, beetroot and fetta salad, storybook mushrooms, anchovies, marinated zucchini with fried mintâ€¦(things can get a little oily after a while but such is the hazard of this kind of dish). The anti pasto for one is actually heaps for two – but you’ll be fighting over the warm, crumbed lamb cutlet, so don’t say you weren’t warned.
Coffee comes in a broad, hand-painted cup on a squared-off saucer. The Romeo’s coffee is definitely on the bittersweet and smoky end of the spectrum – there’s no Third Wave options here, just a straight-up Italian coffee, in keeping with the rustic approach.
Pure Italian is a jaunty, honest Italian offering, mercifully free of the hambone element that plagues some restaurants and turns them into theme parks instead of authentic eateries. (Pet hate: Those horrific, big-headed Italian waiter statues. Why do some places still insist on having them out the front of their establishments? Why?! People either want to punch them or drop into a shuddering ball of clown-related fear.)
This cafe does exactly what it says on the packet – it’s pure Italian. With all the love of the good life that it entails.