Sibling-run cafe Mr Tucci in Glen Iris is bold, with three areas in particular standing out: the space, the food and the vibe.
Let's start with the space, because, let's face it: first impressions are lasting. The space is encased in a glass triangle, with lots of natural light and a backdrop of trees, which makes it feel like you're eating in a very comfortable conservatory. And every seat in the cafe feels like this. Speaking of seats, it's worth noting that owners Fabian, Massimo, and Romina Crea did the fit out themselves — which included sourcing 1950s Australian school chairs and revamping them.
The food shines in the space. And it's no wonder, really, given that this is not the Creas' first rodeo. Stalwarts of hospitality in Melbourne's southeast, they've created a menu which they know reflects local taste. The only problem with the menu at Mr Tucci is deciding what to eat.
The sriracha and maple glazed bacon with avocado seems a firm favourite, judging from the plates of fellow diners, and the sourdough waffles are a clear winner given they've already sold out by early Saturday afternoon. No problem — despite the busyness of the day, the kitchen whips up some more for the polite children on the table next door. A definite thumbs up from the cute ones.
There's a Mr T burger with beef brisket, for those with a larger appetite, and plenty of vegetarian options as well such as panko-crumbed eggplant or black bean röstis. The tasting plate with rösti, smashed avo, maple bacon, a poached egg and waffles with poached pear is a great way to sample three dishes from the menu at once.
You can also just swing by for some really great coffee and cake. Fabian points out that he's lucky to still have his mum, Franca, doing things for him, and in this case she's making stunning cakes. Think Italian sponge filled with lemon curd, pistachio and chocolate biscotti, or pistachio and berry teacakes. Round out your morning (or afternoon tea) with a white coffee, made with beans from local-roaster Veneziano, or an espresso or filter with Wood and Co.
This brings us to the last, and best, aspect of Mr Tucci: the intangible vibe. When you enter a new place and you're greeted like an old friend, this goes a long way. The Creas espouse old-fashioned good service. The name itself is a nod to their nonno, Giovanni Santucci, and hints at the importance of family for them. It feels like a family affair, and you've already been welcomed into the fold.
Images: Julia Sansone