From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that Dolcetti is just another local café. But anyone privy to the Italian language will know that "Dolcetti" means sweets or little cakes and indeed these are the surprises that await you beyond the seating area at the front of the café.
Beneath the marble-topped counters, you'll find a display of dainty and delicate little cakes and baked goods of mainly Italian origin, with hand-written captions on pink cards. I am told all these goods are handmade in-house by owner, Marianna Di Bartolo, who regularly changes the range to allow you the pleasure of trying something new with each visit.
Passionfruit yoghurt tortina, nectarine and almond teacake and fig, chocolate, pistachio and meringue cake
As ricotta features in many of Marianna's creations, I couldn't resist a small doughnut filled with lemon flavoured ricotta (they also come in vanilla or chocolate custard). I also tried an exquisite dolce latte cheesecake made with vanilla, cream cheese and ricotta topped with butterscotch toffee, which was delicate in texture and devoid of the cloying taste common to many cheesecakes.
What sets Dolcetti apart from other cake shops is the interesting combinations of ingredients you'll find in the tarts, cakes, biscuits and marmalades on offer, such as nectarine and almond teacake, baked lemon and passionfruit tarts, fig, chocolate and pistachio meringue cakes, pineapple and lemon marmalade, rose petal or sour cherry nougat, pistachio shortbread and grapefruit amaretti. Some of these recipes have been inspired by Marianna's Sicilian family, while others are her own whimsical concoctions based on the fresh ingredients she loves to eat herself and sources from markets.
In keeping with Marianna's Sicilian heritage, you can also buy traditional sweets like ricotta or custard filled cannoli and ricotta-filled chocolate cassatta cake. Leading up to Christmas, you will also find international festive treats like panettone, panforte, shortbread, gingerbread and various biscotti. Large celebration cakes and gluten-free products can be made to order and hampers are available for gift giving.
But it's not just all about sweets at Docletti. For Saturday lunch, Marianna's mother prepares traditional, vegetarian impanate - thick-crusted pasties that you'll only find in south eastern Sicily and rarely in Melbourne - using broccoli, cauliflower or spinach combined with sundried tomato and olives or just simple potato and onion.
Being in close proximity to the Queen Victoria Market, Dolcetti attracts considerable tourist traffic but also has a strong following from locals. During my visit, a group of Spaniards were happily snapping away with their cameras while enjoying their afternoon tea and numerous locals popped in for their regular sugar hits.