Since opening his slick new Pascoe Vale eatery in early February, third-time cafe owner Paul Vernuccio (Cheeky Monkey, Richmond, and ex-Rubber Duck, Clifton Hill) says he's been getting called George a lot. "I actually don't mind," he says. "It just gives me a chance to tell the story to people."
The name is an homage to Pascoe Vale's first business owner, George Jones, who opened a general store there in the 1840s. Given the absence of a strong cafe culture in the area, Vernuccio says he feels a sense of kinship with Jones as he breaks into similarly unexplored territory.
The punt is certainly paying off, though; according to Vernuccio the 140-seat day-night operation has been jam-packed since it opened. "I could see there was a lot of potential here in Pascoe Vale – there's just nothing else like this in the area so I was really patient waiting for the right space."
Set at the base of a new apartment building and spread across two shopfronts, the airy, welcoming 300-square metre space sports a sophisticated fitout by Eon Design (The Deck, Southbank, The Firehouse, Ringwood). With good acoustics, blond wood booth seating and plenty of space for prams or meetings, it's been a hit with post-school drop-off parents and local business folk.
Out front, there's sunny kerbside seating for another 50, which, when the liquor licence comes through in the next few weeks, will be a prime pozzie for a late-afternoon aperitivo. In the meantime you can BYO (no charge) from the bottle shop a few doors down.
On the food front, Vernuccio has enlisted Jason Shiong (ex-Longrain, Di Bella Coffee Roasting Warehouse) to consult on the menu, which is being ably produced by Liam Radford. Daytime highlights include green eggs and ham with crisp pork, kale powder and potato and pea puree, and Scandi-tastic citrus-cured salmon with creamy croquette and a celeriac-dill remoulade.
The dinner menu keeps things similarly stylish: think cheeseburger with caramelised onion, pickle and Mr Jones sauce and tangy, tamarind-laced Thai sticky pork and papaya salad.
For the caffiends, there's solid Di Bella coffee on offer plus a roster of four single-origins that are roasted in-house.
Open Sun-Thu 7am-9pm; Fri-Sat 7am-10pm.
15c Pascoe Street, Pascoe Vale, 03 9304 2917, georgejones.com.au