An appetite for Aperitivo

When we step across the threshold of Aperitivo Café & Panini Bar, we fall in love. How could we not! With its warm yellow-tiled counter as fresh and vibrant as a field of sunflowers, Aperitivo radiates sunshine.

Aperitivo brightens up Thrower Drive, Currumbin

It’s brunchtime and we’re surrounded by smiles and the lilt of Italian conversation. The whole vibe is cheery and heart-warming, as wholesome as the delicious aromas of freshly baked bread. As soon as we sink our teeth into a Prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella panino, we know we’ll be back. It’s magnificent!

Husband and wife owners Matteo and Liana Secci are both Italian, Matteo having emigrated from Sardinia to Melbourne, where he met Liana. It was a workplace romance, both of them working for a coffee distribution company, but for Matteo especially, the warm climate of Queensland was calling.

Aperitivo owners Matteo and Liana Secci. Photo credit: @pandanuslane

The lifestyle of the Gold Coast proved to be a great attraction to the couple, who left their jobs during Covid, towing their woodfired pizza trailer north and starting work as roaming caterers. Currumbin Beach captured their hearts with its beauty. This was the place they wanted to live.

“We looked around to find a casual place to eat, somewhere we could buy 150g of great prosciutto and freshly baked panini to enjoy with a specialty coffee. When we couldn’t find that in Currumbin, we decided to open a little Italian place that we would want to eat at,” Liana tells us, adding that they also wanted it to be a daytime venue so they could both spend more time with their children.

The counter’s burst of yellow tiles sets the tone for Aperitivo. Photo credit: Aperitivo

Selling their share of the trailer, in September 2021 they found a venue that would work for them, a shop on Thrower Drive, Currumbin, that had previously been a butcher, surfboard shop and gift store.

“We look back on our photos of the café when we signed the lease. Even though it was an empty shell with no kitchen or grease trap, we both wanted this location,” Liana tells us.

Mortadella and mozzarella pinsa, Prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella panino, Meatball sub

“We had a mood board of how we wanted the café to look, and the sort of feel we wanted it to have,” she adds laughing, saying that the décor is part traditional and part modern, just like them.

With its vintage movie posters, Nonno’s shoe-horn and Nonna’s pasta machine that she brought to Australia from Rome, the shop honours tradition and our family heritage while still being bright and appealing to modern diners,” she says.

Margarita pinsa

Already their reach goes wider than the surrounding suburbs, with patrons travelling many kilometres to dine at Aperitivo, the only focaccia and panino café on the Gold Coast making everything in house.

“We wanted to get to know locals, to bring them the coffee they love from Melbourne roaster, Niccolo. Aperitivo is a casual place where people can drop in every day, have a meal or snacks and get pre-prepared food and Italian groceries to take home for dinner.”

Starting the morning with Niccolo coffee

“We had decided on the name ‘Aperitivo’ during hotel quarantine,” Liana says, its name referring to the Italian tradition of having snacks and spritzers in late afternoon before an evening meal.

Aperitivo suits this venue very well, with its sense of joy, community and baked goods being the focus rather than more formal meals.

The menu, too, honours Italian tradition. Many specialty dishes, such as meatballs (for the meatball sub), lasagne, arancini or the veal schnitzel roll, are made using recipes from Liana’s Sicilian grandmother. 

Pistachio-filled croissant – a local favourite

Baking starts at 5.30 every morning, with doughnuts first to be made. Together with pastries, the cabinet carries goodies for an early breakfast. Most have been sourced from Burleigh Baker, where Matteo worked between the pizza trailer’s sale and their café opening.

Croissants get pimped with pistachio paste imported from Italy, making them some of the tastiest pastries on the coast. Beside them, ricotta cannoli and sfogliatelle with a ricotta cream filling provide sweet Italian delights.

Later in the morning, panini, focaccia and pinsa (a long ecliptically shaped Roman pizza that has become a local favourite), emerge from the oven, all baked daily in house.

Panino with Prosciutto di Parma, buffalo mozzarella and pesto, an unbeatable combination

Panino is a ‘must try’ dish, a stunning sandwich of freshly baked panini bread stuffed with filling. From a simple Margarita to something more elaborate, there are six different fillings on offer, the options listed on clipboards behind the counter. Having tried a few, our favourite is panino with Prosciutto di Parma, buffalo mozzarella and pesto, an unbeatable combination.

The pinsa, too, gets pimped with toppings, a great size to share or eat as a meal.

A feast to share at Aperitivo

The sourdough used to make focaccia, panini and pinsa is proven at least 24 hours, making it easier to digest. Focaccia Pugliese is a small round loaf with potato added to the dough, tomato and olive baked on top, a perfect treat to take home to stuff with cold meat or to accompany soup.

Shelves are stocked with pasta, bottled pasta sauce, good Italian biscuits, jam and books, but it’s the baked goods that interest us more. Choose some to take away, or pre-order a grazing box to share with friends and family for a picnic, but there’s nothing like going out with friends.

Shelves and cabinets hold food to go and Italian grocery items

There’s change coming to Aperitivo very soon, with night-time dining on the way. The café will allow BYO until a liquor licence has been approved and then Aperitivo will fully embrace its name.

As we look forward to winter being over (already), the thought of late afternoon dining with a spritzer or glass of Italian wine sounds really enticing.  

Why do we love Aperitivo so much? It’s as bright and joyful as a summer day on the Amalfi Coast and, as we probably won’t be going there for a while, the option of dining at Aperitivo with friends is a great choice!

Meatball sub and Proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella and pesto panino

Aperitivo Cafe & Panini Bar, 8 Thrower Drive, Currumbin Qld Ph: 07 5607 3037 Open: Wed – Mon 6.30am – 2pm

NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Aperitivo.

Aperitivo Cafe & Panini Bar, 8 Thrower Drive, Currumbin Qld Ph: 07 5607 3037 Open: Wed – Mon 6.30am – 2pm
      
8 Thrower Drive, Currumbin QLD, Australia