Driving through Balcatta is a fascinating experience. Every now and then you pass a white-pillared house with arches under a red-tiled roof. Streets have names like Acorus, Lycium, and Lassia. This, to my romantic mind, seemed very Italian until I found out that all of them are botanical terms. Oh well, that didn’t make the place sound any less European.
My Australian friend, who lives in Balcatta, told me that the whole area was once a swamp and used to be a market garden. I could see no signs of this though, as she drove me past very modern looking houses with neat lawns and neater driveways. I love Perth’s driveways. You’re just as likely to see a boat parked out front as the family Ford.
My friend is not Italian, although she did put a chicken Florentine on the table for dinner. She also served wine and camembert – rather wasted on me actually. All I know about wines is that some are red and the others white! Still it was a sumptuous meal, and added another European touch to my evening.
My taste of the Italian flavours of Perth didn’t end there. The next morning we ventured into Mt. Hawthorn and the St. Vincent area of Perth. Driving down Scarborough Beach Road, we passed several old buildings, including the notable Mt. Hawthorn Primary School and the Paddington Ale House. Nothing Italian about these, unlike our final destination – the New Norcia Wood-Fired Bakeries.
Strong coffee, sun-warmed wooden chairs and paintings of bakeries on ochre walls – if these are the things that soothe your soul, then the New Norcia Bakery is the place for you. They do breakfasts and lunches seven days a week – wish I’d known that. The bakery is known for its breads, baked in an original wood-fired oven from the monastery of New Norcia, north of Perth. I settled for an Aussie-sized slice of carrot cake. This means I wasn’t able to finish eating, but it was still worth every bite. And the coffee curled my eyelashes – very Italian that.
As I walked down the street, back to the car I marvelled at the relaxed atmosphere of the place. Where was the mad rush of Monday morning? It must be the European influence. But then again…
“Isn’t hawthorn a plant?” I wondered aloud to my friend. It seemed my Italian experience was destined to be a return to nature.