TRAVEL: Haberfield - a taste of Italy close to home

RAMSAY Street in the inner-west suburb of Haberfield is home to Sydney's real Little Italy.

It boasts its very own bakery and pasta maker, a master cheese maker, authentic Italian delicatessens, a fresh fruit and veg shop that's been around for more than 40 years, a bottle shop specialising in imported Italian liquors, a chocolatier and gelato maker, not to mention the pizzerias, the restaurants and the coffee shops.

The next time you're planning a drive to the Big Smoke, skip the old familiar sights (and dessert the night before) and take a trip out to Sydney's genuine Italian gem to sample the delights and sights of an authentic Italian gourmet safari adventure.

Start your sojourn with a freshly home-roasted espresso from Rino Saffioti, Haberfield's finest self-taught chocolatier. The coffee smells amazing, but it's the chocolates that steal your senses, and the show.

Rino used to be an electrical engineer, before being retrenched. So, he reskilled and became a chocolatier. Rino and his wife Marisa, who does the delicate decorative work on all the delicious chocolates, now own and manage this small boutique store on Ramsay Street, supplying much of their sweet-toothed creations to businesses and restaurants all throughout the city. Sit and relax and sample all the chocolates, cakes, macaroons, mascarpone tarts, cannoli, gelato and many other charming creations that Rino and Marisa make on site.

If you can pull yourself away from all the eye candy inside Rino's chocolate shop, head directly across the street where you will find Paesanella, family-owned cheese makers since 1962.

Former Newcastle Breakers striker John Buonavoglia and his family specialise in making white cheeses, such as fresh creamy ricotta, traditionally smoked mozzarella, and their 47-year old signature cheese, mascapone reale, which is basically a blue cheese lover's ultimate fantasy. It consists of three layers of mascapone, three layers of gorgonzola blue cheese topped off with walnuts, layered up like a cheesy sponge cake.

Next, wander out of Paesanella and a few doors up you'll find yourself some much-needed fruit and veg to help make yourself feel better, after all that chocolate and cheese.

Frank's Fruit Market has been open for more than 40 years. Frank and his wife Mary source all their produce each day from the Sydney markets and surrounding farms in the Sydney basin. Despite the small amount of space, Frank manages to pack in a ton of sensationally seasonal flavours fresh from the farm gate. Their tomatoes are often called the best in Sydney.

Further on up the road is Peppe's Pasta, Joe Cassaniti's award-winning pasta-making factory that specialises in producing incredibly fresh flat pastas, such as fettuccine, linguine, pappardelle, as well as gourmet ravioli and authentic homemade sauces, like pesto (made with real roasted pinenuts), napoletana, and, of course, bolognese. All the pasta is made fresh out the back at Peppe's, and is served in many of Sydney's best restaurants.

Directly across the road from Peppe's is Zanetti 5 Star, Haberfield's most eclectic delicatessen. Genuine Italian products grace every shelf and aisle of this Haberfield institution, which has been open since 1957. Here you will find lashings of Italian deli meats, including prosciutto, mortadella and salami, as well as salted cod and pork sausages. Imported olive oils and vinegars, dried pastas, cheese, and olives all the way from the slopes of Mount Etna.

You should take the time to visit Haberfield's own Roman canteen, Righetto Osteria Romana, located a few doors down from Rino Saffioti's chocolate shop. The menu here is determined by the sorts of fresh produce owner Enrico Viscontini can source from the Sydney markets each day. The gnocchi gorgonzola and fettuccine tartufo e funghi (fettuccine with mushrooms, truffles, garlic and chilli) are gourmet taste safaris unto themselves, but leave room for the tiramisu, which is simply outstanding.

The writer was a guest of Destinations NSW.

Gourmet Safaris offers an Italian gourmet food safari of Haberfield on Saturdays from 10am to 3pm. The cost is $125.

As Sydney swings into Italian mode, tickets for the A-League All Stars v Juventus FC match on August 10 at 7.30pm at ANZ Stadium are on sale now. Visit the website for full details.

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