With a white scarf tied around her head, a smiling Nonna looks out from a family photograph on the wall of Café Vero. Holding four large loafs of freshly baked bread she’s surrounded by other photographs.
There’s a butcher, a chicken farmer, a fruit and veg stall and a gelato maker. All are members of the same Italian family who migrated to Australia in the mid-1900s.
Aussie Produce Food Tour in Sydney’s West
I’m in Horsley Park in Sydney’s West looking to discover Aussie Produce with Taste Food Tours.
Introducing Taste Food and Cultural Tours
Our guide Ezzy has a quiet manner. She explains that she was born in Libya and has travelled to many countries. After visiting Australia, her dream to live in Australia came true in March 2018 when she, her husband and young family arrived in Sydney.
Ezzy studied Community Services at university, but enjoys the flexibility of working with Taste Tours while her three young children are still at home.
A social enterprise, Taste Tours provides training and employment opportunities to new arrivals in Australia. Tour guides gain invaluable local work experience and contact with the broader Australian community. Guests expand their horizons by tasting the food and learning about the culture of new Australians.
Tasty Arancini and Delicious Coffee
Unusually this tour doesn’t start with coffee. Instead, cheese oozes from within the crunchy outer shell of my light and tasty arancini made with Nonna’s recipe. It rests in a bowl of rich homemade tomato sauce.
At Goliath Coffee Roasters David and Clarissa Di Pietrantonio wait for us in the cupping room. Clarissa explains that their families were amongst the first Italian migrants to Australia. On hearing that we’ve come from Café Vero, she exclaims “they make arancini just like my grandmother makes and their meatballs are my favourite.”
David enjoys roasting coffee for locals in Western Sydney “where I grew up”. He enjoys engaging with customers and adds that “everyone has an opinion about coffee and every opinion is valid. No one is wrong”.
Sipping my flat white, I listen as David explains about bean selection, blends and coffee descriptors like chocolatey and spicey. I buy a bag of coffee freshly ground to suit my stove top coffee maker.
Out of Suburbia
Back in the car we leave suburbia passing signs announcing “George’s Farm”, “Tony’s Farm” and “Bouk’s Farm”.
We park besides an air conditioned container at Hay-Yen flowers. On entering, cool air and the fresh scent of cut flowers envelopes us. The flowers are beautiful, but with the temperature rising outside will wilt in the car and we leave empty handed.
Veggies and Fresh Eggs
Sun’s Fresh Farm is busy. Vegetables grown on site and locally sourced fruit overflow from boxes and shelves behind the counter. Three generations of women from the same Cambodian family smile and chat as they select, weigh and bag our purchases.
Cows graze beside a small dam alongside the Fenech Family Farm. For over 50 years this family has sold eggs, chicken, quail, rabbit and pigeon to their loyal customer base. I add a dozen free-range eggs to my esky.
Tucked away in a small industrial complex, The Factoria Café describes itself as “nonna’s cucina”. We poke our heads in to check out the old-time décor. Next-door at the Grano Italian restaurant a tasty gourmet pizza awaits us.
I had no idea that this part of Sydney had such a wealth of top eateries offering authentic Italian food experiences.
Painted green with white windows, the Dutch style double-storey Holland House seems out of place in the Smithfield side street. My friend poses for a photograph wearing the oversize yellow clogs placed beside the entrance.
Inside shelves groan with produce from Holland, products longed for by Dutch migrants. Ezzy presents us with a plate of poffertjies (bite sized round fluffy pancakes lightly dusted with icing sugar) and opens a packet of licorice for us to sample.
Deeper inside the shop, tables are piled high with bright orange fan shirts and hats. Supporters of the Netherlands football team buy their gear here.
Artesan Cheese and Limoncello
An artisan cheese maker, Sam Montalto is the man behind Monte Fresco Cheese. His ricotta won Gold at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It’s fresh, light and melts in my mouth. Other cheese samples are equally delicious, but it’s the handmade gnocchi that I take home.
Domenico Cece “blends Italian passion and tradition” to produce his handmade Australian liqueurs. His award winning limoncello recipe has been handed down through four generations of his family.
As the designated driver, I sample the intense distinct flavors of a select few liqueurs. My friends will enjoy the smooth milk-based Melone (Rockmelon) from the Dolce range.
Pastizzi and Gelato
Charles Hili, of Gato’s Pastizzi offers us a plate of traditional Maltese pastizzi. As we savour the flaky pastry treats, he describes growing up in Darlinghurst in the 50s. His father, Geytano, was one of the first migrants to make pastizzi in Sydney. Charles helped his father by delivering trays of the fresh pastries to the Maltese Club in Crown Street.
Once when they were collecting salt water from under the Harbour Bridge (salt water contains a necessary agent for making the ricotta), Maritime Officers approached them and asked what they were doing. On hearing the reply, the Officers laughed “silly wogs” and walked off.
A sweet aroma greets us as we enter Art of Gelato’s light filled premises with a huge black and white photograph of Venice covering the far wall. Framed awards including more than one Easter Show Gold hang on another wall.
Martino Piccolo, wearing a white chef’s jacket and blue hairnet, tells us his family is from Calabria. He laughs saying that “Italians call me kangaroo and Australian call me a bloody wog”.
My lemon gelato, sweet and tart on this hot summer day is a perfect ending to a lovely day.
A Great Day discovering Aussie Produce
Ezzy has been more than generous with her time and has opened my eyes to the delights of family establishments in Western Sydney. I’ve engaged with passionate people and heard their stories. To top it off, I have a full esky to take home.
If you enjoyed discovering Aussie Produce in Sydney’s West with Taste Food Tours, you might want to read what I discovered on another of their tours – a tour of the Middle East in Sydney’s Merrylands