Inside Pave: Melbourne cafe style comes to Milan. Photo: Matt Holden
The Milanese don't need any lessons in running bars or cafes, but it feels as if they have taken a leaf out of the Australian book at a place called Pavé in the Porta Venezia neighbourhood.
One of the owners, Luca Scanni, is a former journalist who has had two stints in Melbourne, once on a scholarship with SBS Radio and later working for the station.
Living in Fitzroy and Brunswick, Scanni fell in love with ''colazioni pigre in locali splendidi'' - lazy breakfasts in lovely places. ''Places where you could listen to music, read the paper and watch the real Melbourne through the windows,'' he says.
While it might be stretching things to say Pavé was inspired entirely by Australian cafes, the vibe there is as close to a contemporary Australian coffeehouse as you will find in Italy.
There's a long communal table, still an oddity there. ''It was quite a gamble,'' says Scanni. ''Milan is a notoriously cold city and it has been fun to see the change in people's attitude: at first suspicious, then relaxed and then amused.''
There are second-hand lounge chairs around a coffee table in one corner, while other tables and chairs are a repurposed and stylish mish-mash. The effect is cool, comfortable and relaxed.
''Australians often come in, and the impression is that they find themselves quite at home, much more so than the Milanese who come for the first time,'' says Scanni.
The menu focuses on quality pastries and breads, all made in house in the ''laboratory'' - a glass-walled bakery visible from the cafe. There's great brioche alla marmellata (croissant filled with jam), kipfel, pain au chocolat and more.
The coffee is close to Italian tradition, but of the highest quality: a blend of Brazilian arabica with a touch of robusta from Vercelli in neighbouring Piemonte, which is round, clean and chocolatey. There's even soy cappuccino, unusual in Italy (''Disgusting,'' says an Italian friend who joined me).
Scanni thinks it will be a while before third-wave coffee washes over Milan as it has in Australia.
''Italians are always in a hurry, especially in a cafe. Usually they drink at the bar, without sitting down,'' he says.
''But that doesn't mean they don't pay attention to quality. In fact, in that brief time at the bar, they want the highest quality, and they often have quite a critical eye. In that sense the exaltation of quality that is typical of the third wave is already there.''