If you’re bored with toast, then head to Bruschetteria 102 in Surry Hills – it will flare up your enthusiasm for grilled bread.
As the name suggests, this Italian cafe offers many oil-drizzled variations on bruschetta, with charming and likeable results.
If you’re in a breakfast mood, you can get a serve of the Will-approved Uova e Pancetta ($8), with bacon slices fanned out on a cloud of scrambled eggs. (If that dish is a dietary roadblock for you, don’t worry – there’s a vegetarian breakfast equivalent, too.)
Speaking of vego options, there’s also the Vegetariana ($9.50), which is topped with grilled cubes of zucchini, capsicum, eggplant and tastes a tad like ratatouille on toast.
Will and I also shared a Pomodori ($6.50), an entry-level version of bruschetta: tomato cubes flecked with dried oregano flakes. Like most simple things – with their deceptive ‘is that all there is to it?’ sheen – this is lovely. Sometimes there’s nothing better than the flavour-folds of good Italian olive oil, well-toasted bread, fresh jumbles of tomato and plucky herbs. This dish also comes with a surprising condiment-addition of tzatziki, which gives the bruschetta extra punch.
The yogurt-garlic pow is definitely a menu drawcard, as Will was almost enticed into ordering the Salsicca option, which combines Italian pork sausage with radicchio salad and tzatziki ($15). It now sits on the ‘Things To Order Next Time’ priority list.
Something Will did give in to, though, was the Nutella Coffee ($4), which is not frighteningly sweet at all, but has a nicely modulated flavour – like a semi-bitter hot chocolate. I’m not sure if the popularity of this drink has anything to do with the massive Nutella jar that sits on the counter of Bruschetteria 102, but its attention-seeking presence – whether as a prop or genuine XL-sized supply of hazelnut spread – adds to the quirky decor of the cafe.
There are also quite a few retro knick-knacks on display, their once-perfect forms sanded away by time. There are old suitcases, accessories and signs; a vintage sewing machine under a not-so-vintage iPod dock, which plays old-school jazz as we enjoy our brunch.
Other nice touches: the endearingly mismatched crockery pieces, which feel like granny hand-me-downs or well-hunted op-shop finds; the tables coated in blackboard paint, so you scribble away with colourful sticks of chalk; and it’s nice how your cutlery comes out in a paper bag, like you’re on an airplane.
I even have a soft spot for the knives, which are shaped like giant, jagged thumbs and are perfect for cutting up and sliding around your bread slices (meaning you don’t have to endlessly saw away with a butter knife, with the shame of your toppings falling off from your concentrated bread-cutting effort – as can be the usual case with divvying up bruschetta). It makes it really easy to share food around (your orders are already half-sliced, to give you a headstart), and it would be fun to go to the cafe with a big group of flavour-adventurous people and order lots of different dishes and apportion everyone a lottery of many mini bruschetta choices.
Bruschetteria 102 doesn’t limit itself to well-toasted options though; it also serves a rotation of soups and other Italian dishes. Most importantly, there are desserts, such as the Panna Cotta with Berries ($6.50), which we are sold on when the waiter proclaims it is – pause, sincere eyeroll just thinking about it – “awesome”.
It comes in a vivid coating of berries, dusted with crunchy crumbles of biscotti, and very much lives up to his succinct endorsement of it.
Maybe we could say the same of Bruschetteria 102, with its charming menu, cute decor and guaranteed flashbacks of high school Italian lessons, as you hear the staff banter with each other as they bring out the orders.