14 Km South of Sydney CBD…… But boy did it feel further than that!
I’m born and bred in Sydney but I’ve never, ever set foot in Kogarah before. Never! But this Saturday I had it in my mind to explore what is out there, largely due to Pino’s Dolce Vita Fine Foods!
It was last week, my wife and I were watching Channel 7’s Sunrise, and as their Weather segment gets out-and-about, their weather person was broadcasting live from Pino’s Dolce Vita – an Italian Deli located in Kogarah; interviewing the patriarch and founder Pino’s, Tomini Foresti. And as they crossed over to the 45 President Ave store every half hour, for the next week I just couldn’t stop thinking about paying the Italian deli a visit at our latest opportunity!
So come noon time today, we headed out on our day-trip to explore Kogarah!
Getting there – by train on a good day, it is probably a half hour direct train trip from Town Hall? But weekend track work….. made the trip much longer than that, which included an initial detour to Museum station (trains were not departing from Town Hall), which kick-started the first leg to Wolli Creek where we had to change trains and endure a 14 minute wait, before the final leg from Wolli Creek to Kogarah train station.
I don’t know what I was expecting but after a short walk from the station and around a corner, it was already residential- the short commercial strip consisted of the usual suburban restaurants and small businesses.
Then it was a 1.1Km (15 minute) walk from the station to Pino’s Dolce Vita, located on a pretty busy stretch of road.
As soon as the doors were pushed open, the sounds of many happy chatting people came rushing out, along with the toasty warm air. To your right is the deli and butcher portion of the single structure store (I’ve read that they sell over 100 different types of sausages, and many unique cheeses), and to your left was the café and patisserie. At first it didn’t seem like there were going to be any available seats for us, and I had that horrible sinking feeling….. After all this way!? But when we were approached and asked how many were in our party, fortunately there were still two tables out back which were vacant for us! Woohoo! Of recent times I’ve stopped my obsession with reporting back to you a blow-by-blow of a restaurant’s tables and chairs and table setting……but for Pino’s Dolce Vita, I do have to pause and tell you all about their chairs! They were made from heavy wood, and stretched taut across its beams was a thick hide of leather, like dining furniture found at someone’s home, which all added to the homely vibe.
We studied the menus and there were daily lunch specials, pastas, sandwiches/burgers, salads and items cooked for you from the butcher.
I couldn’t go past the Gnocchi beef ragu ($26.00) and my wife ordered the Italian steak sandwich ($24), and a large flat white coffee ($4.50).
As we waited for our food, the last and final table behind us was filled and it was a packed house in the newly re-opened Pino’s Dolce Vita Deli, after a devastating fire in 2016 which saw a Kogarah (and Sydney) institution closed for over 2 years (only re-opening in Dec 2018) – and the reason why Sunrise had featured them. With so many diners (who seemed to all know each other by name), who needed a music playlist? From our back-seats, we were still able to hear what was going on in the kitchen, and had a line of sight to the deli/butcher.
In a few minutes the coffee arrived, and we were speculating, how strong would the coffee be? And it was real nice and strong, borderline needing sugar, but we did resist from adding the white crystals.
But there was a bit of a wait for our food to arrive. Hey! They were super busy and we were waiting (or soon to be) waiting all day long, so what was the difference? But when our food did arrive, we were so ready to tuck in!
My Gnocchi was served on a rectangular plate, and starting my spoon and fork from right to left, I carefully pierced each gnocchi one at a time, savouring each mouthful of food! I’d never had fresh hand-made gnocchi before, and each pillow-soft ball of potato/flour almost dissolved in the mouth without much need to chew. It was coated in the flavoursome ragu sauce, although the stewed beef was a little sparse, with shreds of meat when I was hoping for chunks. Though there were squares of parmesan cheese scattered across the plate, and getting a square with the gnocchi?- Heavenly! But as the gnocchi was only a single layer across my plate (not piled on), I had to eat slowly to make my meal last.
While my wife’s Italian steak sandwich was a different story! It was filling to the 9s! Shaped like a short baguette, inside its crispy outer shell were oven-baked capsicums, fried onions, slow cooked potatoes, fried tomatoes, and a melty cheese! And under all of that, was an entire piece of steak, fresh from the butcher side of the store! The medium-rare chargrilled steak was probably half a centimetre thick, and was so tender and flavourful that I couldn’t recall having a steak this good in recent times. It was that good! My wife granted me a couple of bites and I was having bad cases of food-envy. Haaha.
So as I was leaning back in my chair, finished with my yummy but oh so moreish gnocchi, all I heard was my wife still crunching into her sandwich. *Drool*.
When we were done with our meals, we did a little circuit of their store, checking out the packaged goods and the fresh items they had on offer. And we couldn’t pass-up on the cannoli, the large were all sold out by then ($4 each) so we had to settle on the small ($2 each). We bid farewell to Pino’s Dolce Vita and rounded out back to a small park, where we found a park bench on which we sat and had our cannolis in the sun.
Then it was retracing our steps back to the train station; we had intended to explore more of Kogarah, but there isn’t all that much out there to see or do (especially compared to Da City). So we waited 17 mins for our return train to Wolli Creek, ran for our connecting train (as we had missed the connecting train the first time by 10 secs), but looked rather sheepish when the train sat there for several more minutes, waiting for the slowest and the most leisurely of connectors to stroll on-board.
There isn’t much to see in Kogarah, but if you want to try an Aussie-Italian institution, with great coffee, fresh and unique deli meats, cheeses, awesome café food, pastries and a friendly homely atmosphere? The visit alone to Pino’s Dolce Vita is worth your while! If you’re time poor, we’d probably advise to drive there? But if it’s a nice day and you’re not in a hurry, you can still definitely get there by public transport.
Pino’s Dolce Vita- Saturday 20 July
PH: (02) 9587 4818
45 President Avenue, Kogarah
Tues-Fri (Café/Kitchen) 8am – 4pm
Tues-Fri (Deli/Butcher) 8am – 5pm
Sat-Sun (Café/Kitchen) 7am – 3pm
Sat-Sun (Deli/Butcher) 7am – 3pm