Thornbury Espresso Bar was first opened in 1956 by Carmine Di Paolo, who arrived in Melbourne from Italy just a few years earlier. Despite its heritage, the space had a bit of an American dining feel, with Di Paolo laying terrazzo floors and installing pinball machines, as well as a pool table and jukebox. A vaulted arch separated the players from the game from the coffee drinkers, and it became a place for young Italian migrants to gather for a game of cards or bocce on the adjacent court.
Fast forward 65 years and new owner (and local Thornbury) Louise Zelencich has the same kind of dedication to the community as Di Paolo. She opened neighboring Pallino Bar and Bocce in 2014, and when the opportunity arose to take over Thornbury Espresso, “We couldn’t say no,” she says. pamphlet. “It’s such a good community. There are a lot of younger entrepreneurs here now. Everyone wants to be part of the community and help each other.”
“We love the space and all the oldies that come here, so we wanted to keep all the old features. We remodeled the bar and got new furniture, but we tried to keep the same look.” Zelencich’s wife did the design and family and friends helped to implement it.
“Everything blue is original – including the double arch – and the facade hasn’t changed,” says Zelencich. The lightbox sign (which bears the bar’s name) is also original and she used the font as inspiration for the new branding. There is still a pinball machine and a jukebox, and the pictures on the wall are a reminder: there are pictures of the original owner and a few regulars over the years, plus a particularly striking photo of Paul Newman. New to the space are a pair of L-shaped benches and a sunny beer garden with blue walls.
Zelencich keeps the espresso bar alive in its original form on Mondays and Tuesdays from 7am, so the older, original customers can still drink coffee and play cards. There are pastries from Noisette and as a nod to the past, she has toasted sandwiches on the menu – think salami or mortadella with cheese and tomato.
But it stays open late to attract a younger crowd for quiet drinks at the start of the week (you can order takeaway food from nearby eateries in the evening). Get your spritz with Aperol, Campari, limoncello or Montenegro, and there are Espresso Martinis on tap.
The rest of the week, the espresso bar serves as a space for events and events. “We chose our favorite local caterers and friends to work with: Firecracker Event, Greek Street Food, Pausa Pranzo, Pizza Via, The Moor’s Head and Nola’s.”
Request an event online.