by Jo Rittey
Mario Simeone has been living in North Fitzroy for about 20 years.
“It was when I was at RMIT that I really discovered the northside properly,” he says.
His first job was in Queens Parade and he says he has a real connection with the area.
“The sense of community spirit, the mix of people was something I felt comfortable with straightaway. I understood it and it was as though I had found home. The sense of community almost slapped me in the face and I don’t get that feeling on any other area.”
It is this sense of community that made him want to create Sbriga Espresso. Having an Italian background, he has hospitality running through his veins. He and his brother always loved the idea of espresso bars in Italy.
The remarkable thing about these espresso bars was the sense of community or intimacy of being a place where you popped in for breakfast or a coffee in the morning and there was a real sense of connection between the people that lived and worked there. There was an intimate connection. It seemed as though there were no strangers.
The whole idea of an espresso bar being knitted into someone’s life was beautiful. It wasn’t extravagant; it was a place to go multiple times in a day and catered for early morning, lunch, an afternoon tea and then a drink at night. Mario wondered why hadn’t that translated to Melbourne…And that was the inspiration behind a 20 year slow burn idea.
Launched two years ago, Sbriga, is open for coffee during the day and on Friday nights for an aperitivo.
“More than 50% of the people who come for a drink after work on a Friday are the same people we see during the day. Then there’s another 50% that found us, that followed the glow of the artichoke lamps,” says Mario.
Mario says that it appeals to a feminine crowd at night because it’s warm and non-threatening with cosy lighting. ‘There’s an appealing level of European sophistication,” he says.
People like the idea that they are being looked after, that the barista knows the way they like their coffee and can say hello and call them by name. Also available are pizzas, cheeses, cured meat boards, olives and all the little nibbles you want to have with a prosecco or a beer or even an espresso martini.
Officially open at 6.30, they are usually trading at 6. Construction workers desperate for their morning caffeine fix are particularly happy about that.
Sbriga Espresso Bar
Shop 3, 280 King Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
(enter via Little Lonsdale)
Jo Rittey is a freelance writer who wants to live in a world where apostrophes are used correctly and smiles are genuine. When she’s not roaming the streets of the northside in search of great food, she likes getting lost in beautiful films and having wildly enthusiastic discussions with her friends.