Ah, the old focaccia. Cousin to the pizza, this Italian bread, usually enhanced with a lashing of salt, oil and (sometimes) herbs and smallgoods has suffered all manner of abuse on Aussie turf. In Italy, it’s a light snack, often eaten sans accoutrement. In Melbourne, it often appears as two hefty door wedges of doughy bread stuffed with the contents of an entire deli and then ironed flat. Fugazza is a new café tucked away in Equitable Place that is trying to right those wrongs.
Owner Simon Michelangeli fell in love with espresso and focaccia after a visit to his parent’s hometown of Lucignana, Tuscany and he's spent the past few months experimenting with different traditional sourdough recipes to find the perfect mix for his focaccia, or fugazza as it’s known in parts of the old country.
Sandwiches are baked, not punished in a George Foreman grill here, and unlike the hulking loaves we are accustomed to, Michelangeli’s fugazza are modestly sized - closer to a fist than a forearm in span, and only as thick a puffed up pizza. The bread is feather light and has a satisfyingly crisp crust, while quality fillings like fresh basil, tomato and cheeses like the soft, cows milk based stracchino make for some hot to trot sambos.
Get a full or a half serve (fine for a light lunch) with fillings like sausage and stracchino, or mushroom and taleggio (another Italian soft cheese with a washed rind and bit of attitude). There’s even a dessert fugazza that has no filling but is sweetened with honey, topped with grapes and can be eaten as is. Try it with an obligatory espresso - Michelangeli is a man who likes to control the quality of his wares, and as well as baking on site, he roasts his own small batch coffee blend in the eastern suburb of Deepdene.
Don’t dig bread? There are also frittatas, fresh salads like the broccoli and basil number, plus Nonno Michelangeli’s Tuscan vegetable and bean soup up for grabs. For drinks, get involved in the selection of Abbondino Italian soft drinks, Moretto hot chocolate and of course some bangin’ espresso.
To end on a different note, try the brasilena. It’s a mix of espresso and mineral water that gives a refreshing jolt and some summertime zzzzing. Buon Appetito!