Bella Cosi- Marinated Chicken Sliders and Green Smoothie

Freemason's Tavern is one of the first brick constructions on the foreshore of Port Melbourne. Since 1859, it has seen life as a pub and lodging for laborers and migrants coming to the industrial part of the great city. In contemporary times, the tavern has evolved to become an Italian cafe, Bella Cosi.

Healthy Smoothies are made with almond milk. GF and DF.
Bella Cosi, its literal translation meaning 'beautiful things', is part three of owner, Marisa's, life journey in fulfilling her dream in the food and hospitality industry in Melbourne. The first on her bucket list being writing and publishing a cookbook, which she had done with Bella Cosi: A Taste of Life. The second box she ticked off was hosting Italian cooking classes.

The cafe is a family effort among Marisa and her three sons: Vince, Christian and Anthony. The quattro- en-force uniformly bring the cafe together; hot food, ready-prepped deli items, cakes and pastries, and Grinders coffee to boot.

The cafe's interior evokes an old world charm; a dark and dramatic palette throughout, which enhanced the gorgeous pastries and cakes that pop out on the counter top. Recipes of Italian food are framed on the walls and inset onto the tabletop, cookbooks, ornamental knick-knacks and inspirational quotes are like confetti; at one time tossed out in a cheery mood but incongruently quirky all together.

There are a lot of options on the cafe's menu; many appealing to the eye and the big appetite. For allergen-friendly options, there is minimal signage for gluten-free and dairy-free. This requires a small chat with the server and owner to parse out safe-to-eat dishes.

Marinated Chicken Sliders with gluten-free toast. Gluten-free and Dairy-free
We ordered the Marinated Chicken Mini Sliders, Breakfast Salad and the gluten-free Crepes. The Mini Sliders and Breakfast Salad were asked to be made gluten-free and dairy-free.

The Marinated Chicken Mini Sliders were tasty sandwiches. This was owing to Marisa's trade secret, an Italian chili-marinate, which brought a lot of flavor to the grilled chicken tenderloins. The sliders began with a sweet saucy note, combined with a savoury and herbed house-made mayonnaise and topped with a creamy chunk of avocado. Though visually, it was difficult to get the sliders looking good. Taste wise, it spoke volumes. The gluten-free bread was a standard white toast, specially ordered from a bakery in Glenroy.

The gluten-free Crepes with fruits and ice cream. Not dairy-free

The gluten-free Crepes were outsourced from a French guy, we were told, who wholesales crepes. It wasn't marketed as dairy-free, but my companion, being French herself, commented that it was a good dish.  

The Breakfast Salad. Gluten-free but not Dairy-free. 
The Breakfast Salad, sans feta, was a bed of spinach, roasted tomatoes, smoked salmon and a poached egg. The concept sounded fresh and light- a combo of greens and protein that is a trending dish across Melbourne cafes these days. The dish, unfortunately, was not tasted due to dairy contamination. There were bits and pieces of feta cheese through out the greens- as though the chef had removed the feta as an afterthought. It was a culinary slight that could not be overlooked. Moreover, the poached eggs were overdone and the delicate slices of smoked salmon were served in clumps. It was a disappointing mess.

The Marinated Chicken Mini Sliders were memorable and Vince poured beautiful cafe lattes, using none other but the best, Bonsoy. However, these elements hardly redeemed the poor dining experience that was compromised by the dairy-contamination and the way the owner handled the situation.

There's something missing to the story. Bella Cosi may be of beautiful things, but excellence in food, service and customer care? Not quite there yet.

Bonsoy soy Latte. Well Done Vince for the great coffee! 
Bella Cosi is located at 71 Beach Street, Port Melbourne, VIC

Bella Cosi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato