Italian imports Emanuele Piano and Denalto Bacaj bring a delectable selection of European summer to the CBD, establishing a light and bright pizzetta and focaccia bar on Currie Street.
Via Vai is mamma mia
The lime sign is unmissable – even from metres down the path and with bad eyesight – and the foot traffic is stopping for Via Vai. It’s in the place’s DNA.
“When you have people going up and down, in and out in a street, that’s a via vai of people,” director and co-founder Emanuele translates. “Literally people rushing up and down.”
It’s in his genes too.
Emanuele spent his Sardinian childhood playing with dough in his parents’ tiny street food takeaway, surrounded by chefs. Now he too is trained and qualified, baking all the bread in-house and daily for Via Vai.
“We make everything here,” he says. “I do everything starting at six in the morning. I have a three-day process for my dough. I am really obsessed with flour and water.”
And it’s the cornerstone of their range. At the front window’s neon green bench (the kitchen tiles also share the colour, and the door, even the spatulas), today’s focaccia special is rosemary and garlic labneh, olive tapenade, zucchini, capsicum, baby spinach – go on, add salami.
Their regular offerings are just as enticing: sangas and salads flooded with thoughtful combinations of Italian cheeses, spreads, preserves, produce and meats.
“Being a chef, I get excited about everything. All the meats that we have, it all comes from a company called Salumi Australia. In our opinion, it is the best cold cuts, the best cured meat you can get in Australia. The mortadella, the salami, the bresaola, they’re all very high quality,” Emanuele says.
The gourmet menu comes with an incredibly affordable price tag – everything is under $20.
Via Vai Pizzetta & Focaccia Bar
72 Currie Street
Mon–Fri: 7:30am ‘til 4pm
Sat: 8:30am ‘til 2:30pm
“What you’re paying [for] is actually my expertise, my knowledge, my experience,” Emanuele says. “Making the bread is fairly cheap and we try to make a price that’s fair … it can be as good as you want but nobody will pay $40 for a sandwich, so we try to make something good but in a good price range.”
In the spirit of “oh maybe we’ll do just this and just that, but then we started working on it and maybe we should do a bit more and a bit more”, one of Via Vai’s most popular sellers is their crema caffe.
A whipped coffee cream, also offered as an affogato, Emanuele had never heard of it but says it was widespread in Tuscany, the hometown of fellow director and co-founder Denalto. Poured out of one of those soft serve appliances, CityMag feels like a kid at the fair.
The week the dessert reached the local TikTok algorithm: Emanuele says they “couldn’t keep up with filling the machine”.
“It’s kind of an addiction with these things,” Denalto says, joining us at the galley-style seating area – a long wooden table on caramel floorboards, plants galore, a Uno stack.
The pair met each other, and Via Vai manager Stefano, working as chefs in Adelaide restaurants. They had intended to open up their own, but fate had them destined for a café. Born from their savings and painted by their own hands, the space radiates heart.
There’s singing in the kitchen, fluent Italian flowing and a ‘ciao’ for customers, but you don’t have to come in to enjoy the cuisine – catered focaccia, pizzetta and meat platters are strongly encouraged.
They’ve been busy, but bring it on.
“We have a lot of experience so we could handle more as well,” he says.
“The face of the customer when they’re eating their food and they say, ‘Oh my god, this is so good’ – that’s a big thing for us.”