27 October, 2008

Stand by your pan(cake); Giorno

608 High St, Thornbury; 03 9484 2040; Weds to Sun 8am-4pm
We've known and loved Pizza Farro's spelt-based pizzas for some time now. The Thornbury restaurant has to be one of the best-decorated in Melbourne, with rolling pins hanging from the roof, stitched tea towels and quilts decorating the walls, and the space and natural light to make an always-welcoming venue. Happily, patrons can now enjoy that same hospitality during the day, Wednesday to Sunday, when the site opens as Giorno.

Giorno's breakfast menu is built around eggs and cereals (not the Kelloggs kind!). The egg options break cafe standards: try poached with turkey, rocket and hazelnut pesto and beetroot (served with spelt bread). If you're after breakfast in a bowl there's rolled oats porridge and a gluten-free muesli.

For the non-eggy, non-porridge loving amongst us, the menu starts to look a little limited. There is, however, a house-made spelt fruit toast filling the gap.It comes with ricotta and a rumour of pure maple syrup. The menu warns it's surprisingly filling, a comment at short odds in this year's Cafe Menu Understatement awards. I sampled but a bite and felt weighed down! It's delicious, and smells and looks incredibly appealing, but it was also astonishingly dense. To finish one slice was challenging; attempting the second was out of politeness and and aversion to waste.

Slightly lighter, but no less filling, were the buckwheat pancakes. A bit of research tells me that buckwheat is actually a pseudocereal - it's not a grass and hence unrelated to wheat. It is used in many cuisines: from the basis of Japan's soba noodles to its various pancake forms, such as the Russian blini and French galette. As a gluten-free product it's often regarded as a lighter alternative; however, just as the fruit toast was a digestive challenge, making headway through just one of the two pancakes proved as much as my stomach could comfortably handle.

But I digress, before giving you the full description of the dish. Who wouldn't order pancakes served with orange mascarpone, pears stuffed with prunes and poached in pomegranate and marsala syrup, and pure maple syrup?It's a divine combination, but it's made more filling and less fulfilling by the ratio of bulk to sweet. I would have far preferred one such huge pancake, or two much smaller ones, and more of the sweet cheese and maple syrup. It's understandable that they ration the maple syrup, given it's certainly not the glucose-laden, overly runny, cheap variety, but it left the dish a bit heavy and drying overall.

For those heading to Giorno a little later in the day, the cafe offers a range of piadinas - with fillings such as prosciutto, fontina, artichokes and rocket - made with gluten-free or spelt flours. A trip back to check those out has to be on the cards.

They've expanded their cute decorations to the daytime menu as well. This range of condiments sits on each table; the LSA that accompanied the fruit toast came loaded on a souvenir spoon; and the medicine bottle sugar reminds you that, whether you leave feeling sated or satiated, this restaurant is there to offer their customers happiness and health.

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