Can Ciao Mamma rival Melbourne's best pasta bars? All signs point to yes. Most of the recipes here have been handed down the family and cooked up by Italian mamma Tina Persano, so it’s probably not wise to fight us on this.
Brunswick's Ciao Mamma celebrates its first birthday in October, marking the day Tina’s very saucy dream came true. She resigned from a 30-year teaching career and decided to finally do something with her passion for food (turns out she’s an avid Cooking Channel fan).
Tina and her husband Nic decided to open Ciao Mamma just six months after their son Christian was diagnosed with Coeliac’s Disease. After that, Tina began creating gluten-free versions of Italian classics, and changing up traditional recipes. Which means you'll spot a number of gluten-free options on this menu. No one's allowed to go hungry in an Italian family.
“Mum really wanted to make this place somewhere you could eat together, like we do in our family. That’s why we’ve done all the vegan stuff and the gluten-free options. Whatever food you need, you can come and get it here,” says son and Manager of Ciao Mamma, Christian.
The menu here is a mix of Persano family favourites, spiked with Sicilian flavours from head chef Gaetano Vinci (a former chef at Grossi Florentino). Menu favourites are definitely traditional, with the slow-braised beef and pork Bolognese taking the top gong.
For first-timers, we recommend starting with Nonna’s chips, served with oregano and fried red capsicum (literally drooling) and Christian’s favourite dish, the Amatriciana with creamy tomato, crispy pancetta and hot chilli. Did we mention you can pick from six different types of pasta to go with your sauce? If in doubt, go with the house-made tagliatelle, obvs.
You can watch all the magic unfold in the open kitchen as well—an important feature for food-obsessed Tina.
“Mum really wanted to have the open kitchen because she loves looking in them when she goes out for dinner, she finds it fascinating to watch where the food comes from,” says Christian.
Take a peek yourself, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot Tina in the kitchen baking focaccia or churning out dinosaur pasta for the bambinis.
Head down to Brunswick and become part of the family. This is one of the best pasta bars we've found.
Image credit: Mel Desa