Where do you wanna meet? One word: DOC
I struggle to fully describe the magnetism I have with this place. Whenever I am in the vicinity of Lygon st/Carlton I make every excuse to pit stop at DOC, even if its just for an espresso. Perche? You ask. Well
in the 30 seconds it takes to make an espresso, and the 30 seconds it takes to drink it, I am blown away and mentally transported 16,000 km away to an Italian bar in Italy. “Ciao bella” and a little chiacchierare with Mattia and Francesco has the ability to do just this.Just another australiana taking an Insta pic? Assolutamente no! It is more than just that.
I first became a frequent customer/avid coffee drinker three years ago during year 12. My friend Sabrina and I used to grab our morning coffee during our break at Saturday school. (CO.AS.IT – shoutout to Manuela for getting me through it all). We used to just watch and admire the Italian bar staff rush about in such a simpatico fashion. So vivacious and effortless. So Italian. At this stage my last trip to Italy was two years earlier where I had fallen deeply and madly in love with Italy and its culture. A live changing experience – an eye opener. At DOC, I am able to feel closest to that sensation I felt in Italy.
Today, post Europe 2016 trip, I am even more appreciative and excited whenever I get the chance to visit DOC. If I miss a chance, I am almost DOC-deprived. With every exposure, I am more reminiscent and forever longing for my next visit.
But let me back track to my first ever DOC experience at Mornington back in summer 2013/14. A family friend recommended we try this ‘new Italian restaurant’. Firstly, I found it such an unusual name, as I had associated Italian restaurants with names after traditional dishes or people; such as “La Porchetta”, “La Spaghettata” or “Toto’s”. I didn’t know what it stood for at the time.During this experience, we were first greeted by an Italian who showed us to our table. I didn’t realise how much I had missed that accent. Two years too long! My childhood friend Adriana and I fell in love with one each. This summer evening, it also happened to be someones birthday in the restaurant. All of a sudden Alex Gaudino’s ‘Destiation Calabria’ song started playing and an Italian waiter came out with a tiramisu cake. All the staff were clapping hands in the air like at an Italian music festa, everyone joined in. European summer vibes transmitted throughout the restaurant and around all inches of my body. I knew this was something new and an incomparable experience. We ordered pizzas and I was exposed to new toppings. No traditional Margherita, Capricciosa or Hawaiian (never was a fan anyway). Say benvenuti to San Daniele, Abbruzzese and Quattro Formaggi. Now, from my experiences the last few years as an aspiring pizza enthusiast (no gluten intolerance here), I feel as if DOC was the beginning of modern Italian cuisine in Melbourne, fresh off the international flight from Fiumicino airport. They not only excelled in authentic tasting food, but brought with them their ways thus a new experience as well.
From restaurant names being called after flours and oven temperatures (try Tipo00, zero95, and 400 Gradi), to no formal uniforms and minimal menu sizes – these new businesses followed a new wave of Italian immigration, last seen post WWII. These Italians, like our nonni have come here to seek opportunity that is not currently possible due to the diminishing economy in the Eurozone. With them they have transformed the meaning of Italian culture that Italo-Australos like myself have been familiar with growing up. I have been introduced to new aperitvi (Spritz o’clock anyone?), phrases and a new way of living all together.
SO, without further a due, I would like to say Grazie mille DOC, because without you, there would not have been 46 macchiato shots more or less during Italian school – no pizza no party! You also know how to hire the best staff! I have met some friends, who have made me feel welcome with true Italian hospitality (I’ve never been a regular at any place before mind you). A quick shoutout to Nick aka Romeo Romeo, Mattia my paesano and Franceso the casanova! I’ll never forget you.
Allora, tears aside e apre la bocce! I almost had a de ja vu moment the other day at DOC delicatessen. I have browsed but seldom do I buy anything (always in a need for a macchiato). For the first time in a while I craved a panino. I never order sandwiches out as I feel it is easier to do at home and simply more fresh. However, following a long road trip titled “Giro di Melbourne” by my friend Erica; Roanna decided she felt like a Caprese roll. This triggered my vibes from Rome earlier that year. Valeria my friend from Torino who I had met whilst working at Brunetti, her boyfriend Daniele and I entered a deli for lunch. Here they had a selection of condiments where you choose, along with the type of bread and an aperitivo if desired. I had never done something like that before, and I can count the amount of times I’ve eaten at subway on one hand… Panini connoisseur isn’t exactly my middle name. I went with stratciatella cheese, friarelli and fungi misti in focaccia/pizza style bread. It was the best panini Ive ever had. The freshest ingredients all melting in my mouth on a hot Roman summers day. It was too hot to drink anything besides water, but locals had purchased artisan beers, wines and spritz’ to go with their panini. I thought i’d try to recreate the experience at DOC deli. Although I wasn’t walking around a 2000 year old city prior, it was the close alternative. I resorted to ricotta instead of stratciatella and ciabatta instead of focaccia bread.
With DOC, I feel 100% Italian. I almost live off these sensations, smells, tastes, conversations that occur at this place. It makes me feel alive, hopeful and grateful.
Grazie tanto e buon appetito!
Above image: Valeria, Daniele and I being tourists in Rome. July 2016