MIGHT a battle of the meat slicers be fought to a grisly conclusion in the increasingly delicious heart of Carlton over the coming months? We hope not. But these machines - we refer to the finely engineered, Italian, hand-powered jobs that sell for anything from $10,000 to $20,000 a pop - will almost certainly be front and centre should hostilities unfold.
The first slices of San Daniele prosciutto, in fact, are already falling from the whirring blade of the Ferrari-red $20,000 Berkel in the salumi vault of D.O.C. Delicatessen at 330 Lygon Street - the latest jewel in Tony Nicolini's Italian food crown. This is an Aladdin's cave of food treasures, with meats, cheeses, pastas and much more offered with the style and polish that have become Nicolini trademarks. A twist in the tale of this place, where elegantly attired chefs and shop assistants deliver the goods, in every sense, is a fascinating line in Italian wholefoods.
And now, a comparable slicer in black Maineri livery in the wittily named Skinner & Hackett meat and smallgoods operation at 400 Rathdowne Street is also shaving cured pig meat and beef of distinction.
Carlton is already well-served in the meat and smallgoods area. But now, in the space of just a month, these two new places have opened just blocks away from each other. And as appetites grow, there is room for both.
The licensed D.O.C. Delicatessen is adjacent to D.O.C. Pasta, and no distance away from the group's pizza establishment.
While Skinner & Hackett, which will satisfy British tastes as effectively as D.O.C. satisfies Italian, is in Rathdowne Village, close to Gerald's Bar and St Clement's fruit and veg to which it is related by ownership.
Skinner & Hackett - and, yes, the name comes from wordplay with the things butchers get up to - is the brainchild of wine whiz and menu creator Jonathan Stobbs and the industrious Gerald Diffey who, as well as running his eponymous bar and the adjacent vegie outlet, is a partner in Brooks restaurant in the CBD.
The idea sprung from Stobbs' observation, over a glass of France's finest in Gerald's Bar, that many restaurant premium cuts were not available to the public. So now, through S&H, those cuts - the massive Hopkins River rib eyes, for example - can be had. Along with pork pies, black pudding and the rest, all under a sign featuring the shop's logo, which is based on a ferocious English device called, poetically, a lamb-splitter.
The arrival of Skinner & Hackett completes the transformation of this little Rathdowne strip into a food destination of distinction, as does D.O.C. Delicatessen, with Nicolini's commitment to a variety of foods and methods of delivering them that breaks new ground even for Lygon Street. So, visit both. Eat splendidly and shop extravagantly. But keep your fingers well clear of those slicers, OK?