Where a little part of Italy beats in the heart of Malvern

Australian-born Italian businessman Ross Chessari grew up in and around his father Giorgio’s deli in Brunswick. Surrounded by the language, culture and food of Italy, his childhood was spent enveloped in the thriving Italian community of Melbourne’s Inner North. He recalls, “it was impossible to walk home from school without being invited in by a nonna, who had just made some pasta, or parmigiana, or pastry.” These fond memories combined with watching his father build a business and loyal clientele fuelled a dream for Ross. “I thought that if Giorgio’s deli was fun, then a restaurant - which is really only a deli with some stoves - would be even more fun.” He confesses this was an overly simplistic estimation for what it would take to bring his vision for ‘Sagra’ - the word for weekend festivals dotted around Italy - to life.

Like a little slice of Rome or Rimini in Melbourne’s South Eastern suburbs, the multi-storeyed Sagra building is home to its eponymous Italian eatery, a pizzeria called Pizza One, and a rooftop bar. Exceptional ingredients combined with artisanal cooking techniques serve as a common denominator, however the three spaces have distinct identities.

Sagra is the main event; a sophisticated and vibrant dining room located on the ground floor. The theatre of the chefs at work is all on show, as a horse-shoe shaped bar wraps around the enormous open kitchen. Walls are adorned in lively and eclectic scenes of Italy, and dishes are primarily traditional favourites given a seasonal edge. For example, the regulars’ favourite Carbonara is given a salty hit by twice-cooked guanciale, and a Winter Caprese salad is elevated with tomatoes roasted in the impressive Josper oven, and just-fried burrata, all seasoned with smoked sea salt.

On the first floor mezzanine is Pizza One, a more casual eatery serving up sensational Roman-style slices where the dough has been fermented for 72 hours and the toppings are high quality and produce-driven. Ideal for larger groups, this bright and spacious level also doubles as an art gallery featuring exhibitions by both local and international artists.

Pizza One

Finally, you wouldn’t be the only one to think Malvern might be the last place you’d find a Rooftop Bar with sweeping views. This hidden gem atop Sagra is a refined space that can be opened up in Summer, or made cosy in Winter. A seasonal bar menu is available to complement an Aperol Spritz, or glass of something from the sommelier-curated wine collection.

Most Italians love to dress up and dine out somewhere smart - just as much as they enjoy taking their families to the local pizzeria for a more boisterous, rustic meal. At Sagra, you have all these options and more, as you can book any of the spaces for private celebrations, including weddings. As Chessari explains, an experience at Sagra makes you feel like you’ve found the cheapest ticket to Italy. Cin cin!


Cin cin! Images supplied by Sagra

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