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Caffe Romeo, North Balwyn

Home > Melbourne > Cafes | Chocolate | Coffee | Food and Wine
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published August 16th 2012
More Italian than Lygon Street
Some cheer in cheerless suburbia


A Latin lover is a stereotype that stretches back through Italian history. Casanova was an Italian, right? As was Rudolph Valentino and Romeo. They all knew how to woo a woman, with their liquid amber eyes, gifts and coffee.

The word coffee just slipped in there, because "Latin lover" is a phrase that often enters my head when I walk into Caffe Romeo in Balwyn North.

It is not that the guys are all that gorgeous although they do have lovely eyes. But there is something pleasurable about being called Senora when you order your coffee. They certainly have a special way of rolling their r's. And one barista did once chase me into the op shop next door, although it was only because my takeaway coffee was getting cold.

You know you are amongst purists when a shop is called Romeo Caffe with two f's. And this tucked away little gem in the heartland of suburbia is more Italian than Lygon Street.

Although unlike Carlton there is no need for spruikers. This is a military precision target for coffee lovers. They come from all over just for a hit.

I've been known to detour off the Eastern Freeway, at Doncaster Road, just to get a take-away coffee from Caffe Romeo, and then drive back on again.

The cafe is named after its owner, Stefano Romeo, who trained under Giancarlo Giusti of Grinders fame.

Romeo's signature blend, which he creates on site, has been described in the Age Epicure section as "dark, brooding and very Italian, with rich notes of chocolate, tobacco and hazelnuts."

But in my more feeble language, the coffee is fantastic, a bit darker than some are accustomed to but really packs a wallop.

Stefano creates his premium blend from an international selection of beans from Yemen, Ethiopia, East Timor, Nicaragua, Kenya, India and Guatemala.

Decor is simple. A small cafe with black tables and scrapey chairs, amidst lots of coffee related paraphernalia. The small interior is crammed inside with coffee lovers. There is a real hush here. Everyone is gathered to pay homage to Romeo's blend.

Behind the counter are super efficient guys who treat making coffee as an art form, akin to love, as well as treating you ever so politely.

Outside on the pavement is a little more seating under bright cheery umbrellas.

There are no meals served here, as Romeo is a purist. Fantastic coffee is his trade and that's that. Although they do have a delicious array of unusual pastries such as Portuguese tarts, Spanish donuts and my favourite an Italian style sultana shortbread. They also make their own coffee flavoured chocolate. So the ultimate decadence is at hand: hard-hitting coffee washed over mouthfuls of melting chocolate.

caffe Romeo Cafe Romeo
A selection of different pastries on the counter


And the place smells wonderful. There is an in-house roaster operating most days as Stefano Romeo provides coffee for a number of other cafes including Ciao in Melbourne's iconic Block Place and Pure Italian in Balwyn. You can also buy your coffee beans here.

So if you want to become a lover, of Italian coffee, target Caffe Romeo. Fifteen minutes there off the Eastern is a great diversion.
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Why? To be called senor or senora and to have great coffee.
When: Monday to Friday 7.30am-5pm; Saturday 7.30am-3.30pm
Phone: 9857 6444 Monday to Friday 7.30am-5pm; Saturday 7.30am-3.30pm
Where: 319 Doncaster Road, Balwyn North
Cost: $3.50 up
Your Comment
This is out of date - meals are now served at Caffe Romeo (often affectionately called Stef's by the locals). There is more room now (one whole extra room).
by betty (score: 1|11) 554 days ago
I love this review. Your words are sufficient to create a fantastic picture, unlike my reviews where I need photographs to complete them :)
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11225) 2561 days ago
More like 5 minutes off the Eastern Freeway than 15 - a typo perhaps?
by jmidd (score: 0|4) 2560 days ago
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