Foreword

Foreword

By
Linda Jones, Paul Jones
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743791295
Photographer
Lauren Bamford

Some places transcend function. They are more than the sum of their parts. While it might appear that the Brunswick Street Alimentari is nothing out of the ordinary – just another café serving food and coffee on a street full of cafés serving food and coffee – it’s actually quite extraordinary.

Alimentari is one of those rare places that inspires fierce loyalty and a sense of ownership in its clientele. It’s a landmark that maintains a steadfastly no-bullshit attitude on a street that has always liked to prostrate itself at the feet of fads. It’s solidly rooted in the oldschool multicultural, bohemian Fitzroy landscape, a meeting place for locals and ex-locals where heartache and triumph, happiness and failure, beginnings, endings and the grind of the middle are picked apart, laughed about, cried over, solved, forgotten and remembered over meatball wraps, piadina and haloumi pies.

I know all this because Alimentari has been a part of my life for years, mostly due to friendship but also because of a chronic addiction to sambusic.

I first heard about it one night when Dolores and Linda came into Marios, where I was working at the time, to celebrate signing the lease for their new business. They showed me a picture of an old-school Italian alimentari, all well-worn wooden shelves stuffed with cheese and bread and salami, the café equivalent of a spirit animal that would accommodate their Italian and Lebanese heritages. And while the Brunswick Street Alimentari and its larger bustling Smith Street sibling have grown and morphed into something quite different to that small rustic ideal, at its core the business has stayed true to that original vision. It’s kept its heart. And its cred.

Alimentari was born the same year as my daughter and as a baby she spent time behind the counter, swept up by Dolores who would continue making coffee with my kid resting on one hip, usually chewing on something Dolores had handed her that if I’d tried to make her eat would have led to a nuclear scale meltdown. When a place reminds you of your now-grown kid as a happy baby, it’s kind of like family.

I also nursed a severely broken heart there and if I ever write that self-help book about getting through the seemingly endless damp moping stage, I’ll have to include several chapters on the unbeatable combination of chicken schnitzel wraps and kind, blunt, hilarious commentary from Linda and Dolores.

When Dolores died she left a huge, unfillable Dolores-shaped hole in the lives of many people. It’s still there, years later. But Alimentari was undiminished. It didn’t continue as a shrine to Dolores, more a repository of her particular energy and attitude that always kept things moving, kept things interesting. That didn’t just happen though. It was nurtured, obviously by Linda but also by her husband Paul.

Paul’s cheffing background had been in restaurants not cafés, but he instinctively understood the essence of Alimentari. And while instrumental in expanding the repertoire and the acreage of the business, he’s also been mindful of the essential calibration – the one that harks back to that old photo – that always put heart and flavour and integrity before the essential but more prosaic business of making money.

I’m glad Linda and Paul have decided to share the place in print. It’s bittersweet to be reminded of Dolores but we’d all rather remember. It’s also slightly unsettling to see the recipes for some of my favourite things released for general consumption. But more good food in the world is never a bad thing. And that makes Alimentari a very good thing indeed.

Michael Harden

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