Some places you see a million times thinking you'll go there one day, because while it looks good and interesting you just don't feel like going there that day. It'd been like that for the longest time with Caffe e Torta, an attempt to recreate a slice of neighborhood Italy incongruously sitting at the end of a Melbourne Victorian era arcade.
First thing is, particularly if you've got a hankering to sit inside, getting there fairly soon after 12 would be a good idea. While the cafe was never completely full so you'd need to wait for a seat it's not the largest of places so getting there early means more seating options. Sitting outside in the arcade while watching everyone walk past with Christmas shopping was quite nice though anyway, and never at any stage did we feel crowded or hassled by the passing throngs.
The menu is fairly straightforward, mainly a number of salads, open and closed sandwiches, some baguettes and a pasta of the day. It's not particularly cheap but not expensive either, generally around the prices you'd expect to pay for a mid-level Melbourne CBD or Lygon street cafe. The staff were friendly particularly our waitress with the Kiwi accent, and menus and food came fairly quickly after ordering.
One of the things about dining with Ms No Meat is that quite often she can only find one or two suitable items on the menu. This wasn't the case at Caffe e Torta, with a number of interesting vegetarian options available requiring several minutes consideration. Eventually she chose what was probably the dish of the day, a Bruschetta con fungi (lightly toasted bread with mushrooms and feta cheese). The Turkish style bread was nicely toasted to avoid being too hard, the mushrooms earthy and the feta creamy and slightly salty. As with all of our meals quite generous and filling, to the extent that none us of ended up a cake for lunch dessert.
Snooze;s choice was the Frittata, with pumpkin, spinach, feta, ricotta and free range eggs. Served with a side salad on the side, from the small piece I tried I can confirm it was rich and moist and very reminiscent of a quality quiche. The accompanying salad though was nothing to write home about though, and was largely left untouched.
My choice was the Farfalle with mushrooms, small noodles shaped like little bow ties served with pumpkin and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. This was a fairly unusual choice for me but with only a single rotating pasta offered each day choices were limited. Nice al dente pasta and the pumpkin and mushroom gave the dish a real flavour punch for a vegetarian dish but it was also a heavier dish than I'd normally have ordered for a work day lunch. On second thoughts, an entree sized version rather than main size would probably have been a better choice.
As a special visitor on this occasion we were also joined by Ms W. Ms W is known for her somewhat fussy eating habits and while I didn't try it I can confirm she did like her chicken salad which normally comes with avocado.
Cute and with food that can hold its own with similarly priced cafes around town, it's hardly revolutionary but it is kind of fun.
Food - 7
Ambience - 7
Service - 7.5
Price - 6.5
314 Little Collins Street (end of Royal Arcade)
Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 1915