How I Melbourne: Rosa Mitchell

Published on 10 August 2021

Photo: Chef and restaurateur, Rosa Mitchell

Rosa Mitchell arrived in Melbourne from Sicily when she was seven years old. A latecomer to the hospitality scene, she was once a hairdresser before an opportunity to join the kitchen at Gertrude Street Enoteca launched her career in food. Soon after, she was running Journal Canteen where she had free rein to cook the food of her roots. Since 2013, she has welcomed hungry customers to her own restaurants - her first foray into restaurant ownership was Rosa’s Kitchen in Chinatown, followed by Rosa’s Canteen in Melbourne’s legal district a few years later - where her signature brand of hospitality and passion for sharing food and heritage is on full display.

In the morning you’ll find me rushing out the door, running a little late for work. I’m not good at having a proper breakfast, but the first thing I do after arriving at the restaurant is switch on the coffee machine and make coffee for all the staff. It’s become a tradition.

My local is Miinot Gelati in Pascoe Vale South. In lockdown, we would walk the best part of an hour to enjoy a delicious ice-cream and repeat the walk home in a vain attempt to reduce the calories.

My defining moment in Melbourne was around 1990 when I became a foundation member of Slow Food Melbourne. The ‘good, clean, fair, food for all’ mantra resonated with me and introduced me to so many like-minded people. I connected with passionate producers and up-and-coming chefs, creating meaningful relationships which have lasted to this day.

I know I’m in Melbourne when you have four seasons in one day, buses replacing trains and the lactose-intolerant diner deciding to round out their meal with a ricotta cannoli.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I purchase the freshest seasonal produce I can find. Having a relationship with your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer helps. I try to keep it simple and let the produce shine.

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to… It is easy to dazzle out-of-towners because we have some of the best restaurants in Australia. I would start with a drink or two at City Wine Shop or Gerald's Bar, both great places for people-watching and to get a feel for the Melbourne vibe, then onto Anchovy, Lee Ho Fook or any of the other wonderful venues Melbourne has to offer.

My go-to spot is Central Victoria. I spend my weekends exploring Daylesford and Castlemaine. I love Sunday lunches at Guildford Winery or dinner at The Surly Goat. It has become an amazing region for food, wine and produce - a lot of my supplies for the restaurant come from here too.

There is no better value in Melbourne than a good phở. It’s the only thing we really have for takeaway. Good for you and delicious.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is… Travelling along Sydney Road provides a world tour of shopping experiences. I visit Gervasi Deli to stock up on pasta, cheese and cured meats. They have the best pork and fennel sausages. Further along, Mediterranean Wholesalers have all sorts of Italian produce including baccala, great sweets and wine. It’s always an interesting place to mix with Italians doing the weekly shop or out-of-towners stocking up on their Italian fix.

If there was one thing I would change about Melbourne it would be the weather. I wish it was more conducive to outdoor dining and drinking. It’s so unpredictable here. In Sicily, the streets come alive once the sun goes down; bars and restaurants fill any spare space they can find on the streets with tables and chairs. 

One thing I wouldn't change about Melbourne is the wonderful multicultural harmony that we have. There aren't many places in the world where you would find such diverse cultures coming together.

Rosa’s Canteen, level 1, cnr Little Bourke & Thompson Sts, Melbourne,

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