677 Whitehorse Rd Mont Albert, VIC 3127
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat 7am-3pm, Sun 8am-2.30pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 8256 4866|
Sometimes you walk into a place and know straight away that everybody there absolutely loves feeding people, not just because they like pleasing customers but because it fills their own souls with satisfaction. I felt it immediately at Via Porta, a cafe and provedore owned by the four Cosentino siblings, designer Sarah, chefs Simon and Ryan, and front-of-house cheer specialist Jonathan.
At Via Porta – their second cafe after selling Balwyn's Mr Hendricks – they've channelled the bounty and familial joy of garden-grown Sunday lunches at nonna's in Reservoir and turned it into a daily feast for the leafy east.
Via Porta sweeps from a dog-friendly front porch through a bright, crazy-paved dining room, past a take-home pantry to mezzanine seating at the rear. It's everyday stylish, somehow both minimal and bountiful.
The siblings always imagined Via Porta as more than a cafe, which looked extraordinarily prescient when COVID rolled in six months after they opened. During lockdown, they kept the neighbourhood stocked with lasagne and tiramisu, building on and building up community sentiment and support.
Those for-home dishes are still a feature and I'm sure I'm not speaking just for myself when I say how nice it is to go out for breakfast and come home caffeinated, with a beef and red wine pie for dinner.
Very few cafes in Melbourne bake their own (excellent) croissants but Via Porta not only has a dedicated basement pastry kitchen, they also supply pastries to others including Padre in Brunswick and Maker in South Yarra.
Croissant offcuts are used to make the French toast doughnut. To make this sweet brunch stunner, the dough trim is stirred with egg, pressed into a puck, steamed, fried and filled with raspberry jam then layered for service with custard, peaches and almond brittle.
If dessert-for-breakfast is scary, it's probably eggs arrabiata for you, in a spicy sugo with fried capers, or a fluffy omelette rolled around whipped feta.
Straddling brunch and dinner, the falafel plate is a pretty array of colourful elements including fried-pita-scattered tabouli and pickled daikon purpled with beetroot.
When I come back for lunch, I'll have the crumbed eggplant toastie with housemade tomato-capsicum chutney, mozzarella and basil. Quality and care are the common elements.
Via Porta reinforces the pleasures of complementarity: how nice is it when the person doing the giving loves it as much as the one doing the getting? That's real hospitality.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)