Moonee Ponds, VIC 3039
Ph: 9375 2896
It's an "oasis of calm". That is how I would describe Garden Tuscany. Tucked between a side driveway alley and the back end of a carpark, you wouldn't believe how relax you'll feel once you step inside this garden. The cafe truly is a garden, in fact, it's the garden of Sam, Stella and their kids Lance and Ricki. You see, the cafe is actually the back end of their house converted into one of the most relaxing spaces you'll find in Melbourne. As my friend Hien said, it felt like the world was a million miles away. And that's the intent that Stella and Sam were going for. They wanted this to be their little bit of Tuscany.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by Ricki to visit the cafe and have a chat with all involved. Stella warmly greeted me and got me a table before grabbing some drinks for myself and Hien. The story of how this cafe came to be is quite amazing in itself. Sam and Stella had lived only miles apart in Italy, but only met when they attended a wedding here in Australia. They then got married, decided to stay and raise a family here. Having retired from his engineering job, Stella suggested to Sam that they open the type of cafe that they've always wanted to go to, and hence Garden Tuscany was born. And you can't help but be jealous at the amazing place that they call home. Stella pointed out it wasn't all done at once, a bit was added here, a bit there and slowly built upon. After finally winning a court case started by their neighbours to stop them opening the cafe from a residential area, we are now all fortunate enough to also share this space, with it's lush trees, amazing cool breeze, scattered trinkets, a wood-fired oven to make any man jealous, delicious drinks, crispy pizzas and indulgent cakes. Below is Stella tending to the scones with Sam being the chef making the pizzas. Son Lance has currently stopped his job to be a barista, but will resume his normal work soon. Ricki is more behind the scenes and involved in the website design and other administration work.
Onto the food. Look how beautiful the little Orange and Poppyseed Cupcake is. And sitting underneath are pizelles, which are traditionally eaten at Easter, but Stella loves them so much, she thought, what the heck (ok she wouldn't say what the heck but I'm channeling the sentiments rather than the words), let's serve them all year round. The cupcake is one of the best I've tried, simple, but oh so moreish. And I love the pizzelle, partially for the looks, and partially for the taste.
I love eating scones. Ok it's not very manly, but I adore them. However, having tried to make them so many times and failing, I can say that they are deceptively hard to make. I was comforted to hear that Stella worked on her scones recipe for 6 months, tweaking them each time. She too found that they can be quite temperamental. However, she has perfected her recipes, producing fluffy light scones served with real cream and a nice jam. As Stella and Sam pointed out to me, they pride themselves on making everything fresh on the premises and only serving the best food they can produce. If anything is not up to scratch, they throw it out. Many cafes and restaurants around Melbourne can learn a thing or two from this attitude.
Hien loved the cupcakes so much that she bought some more to take home, and reported to me that they were all "delicious". The Chocolate Truffles and Hot Chocolate we tried were insanely good. I felt the hot chocolate tastes better than Koko Black and Max Brenner. I may have been swayed by the swaying trees and how relaxed I felt, but food is all very subjective. The hot chocolate was sweet, but not as much as others. The key is to use dark chocolate says Lance. Although some people do not like the taste of dark chocolate, they've found that when you mix milk chocolate into a drink, it becomes too sweet. The dark chocolate loses its bitterness when the milk is added anyway. Only the best couverture chocolate is used to make the truffles and drink.
Lastly, while buzzing from the sugar high, we thought we shouldn't miss out on the pizzas that diners around us were all tucking into. Our Salami Pizza was simple, but very good. Sam was apologetic when he said that he got a little flustered when the new waitress made up the wrong pizza toppings and he let a couple of pizzas brown a bit too much on the edges. They still looked good to me, but he insisted that he only serves perfectly cooked pizzas to his customers. Now that's quality control.
And that concludes was my sojourn to Tuscany. If Tuscany is anything like this cafe, it will be an truly amazing place to visit and is definitely on my list. If you can't get to Tuscany any time soon and want to experience a small piece of tranquility and relaxation, drop by Garden Tuscany, where they pride themselves on producing a relaxing atmosphere, smooth chocolate truffles, delightful drinks (hot chocolate and coffee which they personally blend) and some simple pizzas. They've definitely won me over and I shall be claiming my own little piece of Tuscany quite often.
Drinks and sweet items were courtesy of Garden Tuscany.
For other reviews on Garden Tuscany, follow the links below.
The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua
Addictive and Consuming