Is this Australia’s best deli?

Inspired by the alimentari of Italy, the bodegas of Spain, and the Old World delis of New York, Torquay sensation Mortadeli has been turning heads and winning hearts on the Surf Coast since opening in 2021.

Twelve months on, the hidden gem has earned a serious reputation for its cult-classic sandwiches, superior Everyday coffee and exceptional edit of Maltese and Italian pantry goods – charcuterie, antipasto, finish-at-home meals, freshly baked bread, homemade jarred goods and loads more – a delicious gateway to some of the best-loved culinary traditions of both countries.

Coddling a freshly-baked tray of pea pastizzi, here’s owner Jake Cassar with all the delicious things you need to acquire when you’re next in Torquay.

How about a drink?
Apart from our excellent coffee, I’d say there are two things you have to try, because good luck finding them anywhere else this side of the Mediterranean. Firstly, is our Negroni Sbagliato Spritz. This is mixed in Italy for us and I was lucky enough to sample it in the bar in Milan where it was created. The story goes that it was made by mistake when a bartender accidentally poured prosecco into a Negroni instead of gin, and after tasting it I knew I had to bring it back with me.

The other drink is 100 per cent unique because we invented it. It’s called the Ginnie and is made with Four Pillars Olive gin, mixed with a traditional Maltese soft drink called Kinnie, that has kind of herbaceous flavours and citrus notes.

I’m here for a good time not a long time.
If you’re craving a quick savoury pitstop I’d say a pastizzi and a Kinnie is perfect. Pastizzi are golden Maltese pastries that we serve hot every day (we rotate the flavours) and are traditionally filled with ricotta or peas.

If you’re needing a sweet snack, you can’t go past one of our freshly piped Sicilian-style ricotta and pistachio cannoli and a cappuccino. We’re on a mission to bring back the cap.

Got anything light and fresh?
The word ‘light’ isn’t really in the Maltese vernacular, so the smallest thing we offer is a gluten-free almond or pistachio biscotto – baked fresh, locally, daily – and an espresso. Have it standing up at our outdoor bar.

What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
Our roasted cauliflower is basically a salad in a sandwich. The florets are smothered in housemade almond pesto and fermented Italian chilli from Bippi, and sit on a bed of greens with a blanket of burrata (we can take off the cheese for a vegan version and add salami for the carnivores).

Which item best captures the Mortadeli vibe?
When I was planning the menu, my sister Kayla was adamant that I had to include a hobz biz-zejt which is what goes in every Maltese kid’s lunchbox. Each family has a different version of this sandwich – it literally translates to ‘bread with oil’ – so I was a bit sceptical to add it. But as younger siblings do, Kayla now loves to say she told me so, because people drive from Melbourne and beyond to order it.

The Morta version has chunks of Sirena tuna between two thick slices of fresh pasta dura, spread with imported Maltese kunserva tomato paste and then I add capers, olives, pickled red onion, fresh parsley and finish it off with a drizzle of EVOO and a fine layer of grated salted ricotta.

We’ve also built a rep for our Continental Deli sandwich which is a selection of the best meats from our salumeria housed in fresh a ciabatta roll, with imported Spanish guindilla peppers, provolone and a swipe of ’nduja and mustard. I don’t like to overcomplicate things, so why shouldn’t there be mortadella, sopressa and grandmother ham all in the one sandwich when they all taste so good?

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Our namesake mortadella melt toastie, made to order with a secret three-cheese blend.

We were brought up to believe that this was a low-class cold cut, but it’s such an underrated and complex offering. It’s really experienced a renaissance with local, free-range producers making it now and enhancing the pork with flavours like pistachio and olive.

And to close?
I always have room for specials on the menu so I can bring my dream sandwiches to life when inspiration hits, like the Cheesy, Calabrese, Bolognese, Albanese! that I created when Albo won the election. My brain gets ideas from everywhere, even politics, so I need to be able to have some space for creativity and fun in amongst our regular offerings.

Mortadeli, Shop 8, 4-6 Gilbert St, Torquay, 0466 888 1456, open Sun-Thu 9am-3pm; Fri-Sat 9am-5pm, aperitivo hour daily from midday,