Nothing shows us love more than a great Italian meal. It’s not just the food, it’s also the atmosphere and the service. They’re parts of a story that together adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Follow the smell of pizza from down the street, the sound of music and laughter lilting on the airwaves and you will find your happy place. That’s how we feel when we dine at Pepe Italia Deli in Palm Beach.
Owned by Andrea Fabrizio and his fiancée Alexa Damianopoulos, Andrea tells us that coming to the Gold Coast was a lifestyle choice of beach and weather over a fast-paced city life. None of us will argue with that!
The couple first opened Pepe Italia in Burleigh in 2016, a restaurant serving classic Italian with a twist of innovation.
Opened only a year ago, their second venue, Pepe Italia Deli, took the prime spot in the new Pavilions Plaza, establishing its place in the Palm Beach dining scene with its casual vibe and good food.
We dine beneath a mural of Tropea in Calabria, the stunning Byzantine city of Andrea’s family origin, in the casual rustic restaurant enjoying attentive service from Lupo, the manager. Even more than the mural, though, the food brings us tastes of Andrea’s home.
Using the recipes handed down from his grandmother, Andrea’s food pays homage to the traditional food of Italy. It’s food that we simply recognize as ‘Italian’. To Italians, however, each dish has regional origins, such as Spaghetti Carbonara and Amatriciana which hail from Rome, Tagliatelle Bolognese from Bologna and Calzone from Sicily.
First we share antipasto so delicious that we really could make a meal of it: Tagliere salumi and formaggi: Australian Wagyu bresaola, Salumi Australia’s salami, shaved parmigiano reggiano, Italian prosciutto di parma and mozzarella, truffle and chilli pecorino, dried figs, walnuts and olives; it’s all magnificent, enjoyed with the best focaccia we’ve had in ages. Perfectly salted, there’s a different taste to this focaccia that makes you want to keep eating it, loading it up with sliced tomato, fresh basil, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil. Bread isn’t just bread, as we well know, and this one is superb thanks to the fresh yeast and imported Sicilian salt! Oh my!
Just as delicious is Pepe’s pizza, traditionally made from the same dough and proven for 72 hours before cooking in the imported Tuscan Valoriani woodfired oven. Laden with seafood, it’s a treat.
Being huge burrata fans (who isn’t), we also enjoy an excellent burrata from Byron Bay Mozzarella Company with a side of tomatoes and homemade gluten-free bruschetta. It’s as good as Italian burrata, Andrea tells us, and that’s a big call.
We’ve already eaten enough, but who says no to handmade pasta! Not us, especially when it’s made daily.
So, we tuck into Squid Ink Spaghetti laden with whole seafood as they would make it in Positano, and Gnocchi Sorrentini with a delicious melt of Byron Bay buffalo mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano topping the soft passata-sauced pillows of gnocchi. There’s even room to share a Cannoli Siciliana filled with ricotta cheese and pistachio.
Love your meals? Then you can buy the ingredients from the takeaway deli counter to take home. They’re also available for pickup and delivery via the website (conditions apply). It’s the place to find Italian staples such as wheels of cheese, olives, smallgoods, homemade pasta in packs, lasagna, spinach and ricotta agnolotti with sage and parmesan, meatballs, tiramisu, tinned tomatoes and oil to make your own Italian meals at home.
The team at Pepe Italia Deli have experienced some major changes during the year that they have been open. Now, they can welcome us back to their special themed weeknights: ‘Metre Pizza Tuesdays’ with huge pizzas featuring up to three different toppings which provide a feast for pre-booked tables of five to seven people, and Wednesday’s ‘Pasta and Cheese Wheel’ evenings. This very ‘60s tradition sees a specially imported 40kg wheel of Parma cheese become a flame-melted bowl to create cheese-coated pasta with your choice of additions. If you love cheese, then try the Quattro Formaggio or Four Cheese pasta. Other choices are funghi (mushroom) with the possible addition of truffle oil, or pancetta. Delicious!
Pre-lockdown, Pepe Italia also had Apperitivo from 3pm – 5pm every Sunday, an offering of antipasto to enjoy with drinks, which Andrea says will continue once restrictions are fully eased. It’s as cultural a practice for Italians as a Sunday session is for Aussies, he says. Personally, I’m keen to try a glass of the Astoria Prosecco he personally recommends and, as I’ve already said, the antipasto at Pepe Italia Deli is the best of the best. Winners all round. Here’s cheers to that!
Pepe Italia Deli Ph: 07 5559 5671 Pavilions, 1102 Gold Coast Hwy, Palm Beach
Open: 3pm – 9pm Tues – Sun
NOTE: Photo of Andrea with metre-long pizza supplied. Good Food Gold Coast dined as a guest of Pepe Italia Deli.