29 Blessington St St Kilda, VIC 3182
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 7am-3.30pm; Fri-Sat 7am-9.30pm; Sun 7am-9pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 8394 9809|
I'm sitting in one of the many nooks at Sorsi e Morsi ("sips and bites") enjoying my coffee. It's mid-morning and the place is all happy hubbub, a hospitality symphony. The sharp raps and steamy hisses of coffee-making are layered with tong taps and bell dings from the tiny kitchen. An ex-employee pops in and there's a crescendo of overjoyed hellos. Three men sit in the window dispensing footy tips, chiacking and jovial.
Outside, a golden retriever sweeps the large, sandy terrace with a feather-duster tail, a toddler stretches from a stroller seeking croissant, and neighbour calls to neighbour to talk Wordle. It's easy community, flowing moment by moment: a confluence of difference that knits together as chosen family.
Staff shortages, increased costs and two years of uncertainty have made staying open all day a tricky proposition. But when a business commits to it – as Sorsi e Morsi does – it's able to spill and glide and ripple from one rhythm to another.
The jazz and buzz of breakfast moves into the lull of late morning, the rat-a-tat of lunch, the lazy snacking and spritzing of dusk then the surge of dinner and the ebbing to elsewhere of last drinks. It's beautiful, human and important.
Sorsi e Morsi was founded in 2013 by Anna Rowe who also has pizza place I Carusi II next door. The small rooms are higgledy piggledy and off-square with a hideaway feel. In its timberwork, rendering and earthy sepia tones, Sorsi e Morsi evokes the most romantic version of Venice you can summon.
Rowe passed the business to her restaurant manager Bradley Balbi in March 2020, which turned out to be interesting timing for him and right-hand man David Pannell. The importance of cafes and neighbourhoods in lockdown was reciprocal, practically and emotionally. Balbi was sustained by such gestures as the elderly regular who upsized her coffee simply because she wanted to spend the extra dollar with him. He also knew that many customers had their only interaction of the day with his team.
Italian food is the spine of the menus but there's a lot of Melbourne licence in dishes like the brunch hash. Slow-cooked pork and potato fritter is topped with poached eggs and dressed with a spicy 'nduja hollandaise: it's a terrific hot breakfast that will get you through to dinner.
Need lunch? The vegan ortolana panini is layered with roasted pumpkin, capsicum and grilled zucchini. Sunflower butter brings richness, salsa verde gives it all a kick.
Pasta straddles lunch and dinner. I'm happy to say the gnocchi cacio e pepe is outstanding. Royal blue potatoes are turned into outlandishly fluffy dumplings; a peppery cheese sauce envelops them in a pure, loving embrace.
The vegan bucatini is robust and satisfying too, tossed with a clingy sauce of zucchini, pistachio, thyme and lemon.
Sorsi e Morsi is immune to trends, powered by looping St Kilda dawns, noons and sunsets and the people living and working nearby. It's a treasure and it's treasured, normal and special, all-day dining to savour.