The Umbrian, 309 Hunter St, Newcastle, Mon-Fri 7.30am-2pm, Sat 8am-2pm.
Imagine that the most famous regions and cities in Italy had a handful of little sister sites located around the inner suburbs of Newcastle. The Milanese might feel most at home sitting at a well-dressed café window overlooking The Junction. At the streetside tables of Hamilton, where the same men talk over the same cappuccino for hours on end, there has always been an old fashioned and masculine, speak-when-you-are-spoken-to Sicilian attitude towards the coffee and the conversation. On King Street in the city, the boys from Napoli Pizza would easily make any native of their familial hometown feel closer to home.
Just around the corner from Napoli, sisters Olivia and Daniella Stoppini have dedicated their food and coffee to Umbria - a more modest but no less distinctive or picturesque region of their beloved Italy. The menu, the service and the atmosphere at The Umbrian embodies the warmth and charm of a home land that the sisters’ parents Nello and Liliana first left for Australia some 50 years ago. Amongst the belongings the Stoppinis chose to take from Umbria was a collection of recipes that Olivia and Daniella have lovingly brought to life in their busy and increasingly popular Newcastle kitchen.
Seventh Wave coffee label, thanks to the Stoppini sisters, has only recently found its way to the coffee drinkers of Newcastle.
The most popular item is undoubtedly their piadina – a hand-made Italian flatbread topped with or wrapped around a selection of traditional Umbrian ingredients. A breakfast piadina with basil oil, tomato and mozzarella ($7) is a favourite, but my salami, provolone and rocket combo ($9.50) is an even simpler triumph - a fresh, crispy and wholesome offering that represents the best that humble Italian food can be.
Another daily favourite comes courtesy of a Sydney coffee roaster who has been practising his art for over a decade and a local barista who could boast about accomplishing the same. As recognisable and respected as some of the best coffee makers in town, Ben Kelly has become an invaluable addition to the close-knit and passionate Umbrian family. His coffees always arrive quickly, at the perfect strength and bring the best and most consistent body out of a specially selected house blend.
Combining seasonal varieties from Ethiopia, Nicaragua and India with a top quality Brazilian bean, Sydney roaster James Lusty has discovered a blend that starts with a fruity acidity but finishes with notes of hazelnut and sweet cocoa. His Seventh Wave coffee label, thanks to the Stoppini sisters, has recently found its way to Newcastle. If the subtleties of flavour in The Umbrian house blend can be any indication, his recipes might one day enjoy the popularity and devotion that Olivia and Daniella now so easily do with their own.