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Donato Est. 1980 - Cafe Restaurant & Gourmet Produce Store

Home > Melbourne > Cafes | Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Food and Wine
by Lorraine A (subscribe)
Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Published June 26th 2020
This is somewhere you must try out
The brand new premises of the Donato family has just opened its doors to the public for the first time. And .... WOW!

What a super impressive upgrade it is.

The once humble, country-style corner store, where I bought my daily newspapers from on my morning walk, has gone upmarket. Forget the old image of the original "corner store", which housed the small business (and is still there by the way), and replace it with an ambitious, attention-commanding brick building that has a super sleek - slightly industrial interior, that gives off an unashamedly confident feel in its design and personality. Perhaps a representation of 3rd generation owner Nic Donato?


Parked in the first bay, near the impressive future forward-thinking, electric car charging stations (there's two here in the private car park), is a brand new Porsche 911 Carrera S, or if you don't have a car-obsessed son like mine, that equates to around a $300,000 car in money terms. Whilst it's not the average car you would've been likely to encounter at the old 'corner store', some things remain unchanged. For example, the friendly Donato family members/staff that welcome you warmly upon entry, the egg & bacon rolls are still on the menu. They're open bright and early from 6am weekdays. And you can still pick your fresh lettuce and herbs straight from the hothouse out the back.

There are two menus on offer here; the first is a 7am-12:30pm Breakfast Menu that includes most of the items that are on the second All Day Menu, but minus the 6 more substantial options like the Arancini, Fish & Chips and so on.

Breakfast Menu 7am - 12:30pm

An All Day Brunch/Lunch menu that includes the likes of Breakfast Salmon, Polenta Mushrooms, Buttermilk Pancakes, Homemade Lasagna, Open Lamb Piadina, Steak Sandwich, along with the all of the items listed below. The prices are reasonable, starting at $6.50 for the Sourdough Toast with condiments, to the most expensive, a Scotch Fillet Steak Sandwich w Chips $26. The average meal is around $20. Takeaway is also a popular option for those on the run.

Along with what's listed on the menus above is an array of fresh cakes, muffins, slices, sandwiches and more.

You can stock up on gourmet produce, fresh eggs, beautiful gift bunches of 'wildflowers', pretty flowering pot plants, Baker Boys bread, and more that I'm likely to have missed spotting on my first visit.

Pick your own lettuce $2 each or 3 for $5

Whilst I only enjoyed a cup of tea and something light with my friend today, I will go back soon to offer a full review of the food and service here. I prefer not to rush into giving new businesses a full review until they've had a chance to settle in, resolve potential teething problems, and get over the initial influx of customers wanting to try out "that new place". I will say though, they are doing an incredible job so far, especially so during this extremely challenging time of Covid-19 restrictions. It's tough on all business owners at the moment but I couldn't imagine how difficult it must be to manage an official cafe opening in the middle of it (June 15th 2020). Well done Donato family!

Flowers for sale

The Donato story - "Our story begins when Nicola Donato, a young and hardworking Italian boy, decided that his little village Pizzoni in Calabria was not big enough to contain all his ideas, his dreams and aspirations.

In 1949, at age 19, Nicola decided to sail onto new adventures to a land far far away from Italy: Australia!

Melbourne soon became his new home – a place so different from his little town in Calabria – and yet so similar to his ideas! His dreams were soon fulfilled, and he was ready for this next chapter in life: providing a better future for a family of his own.

And it's for this reason that in 1952, three years later, the newly wedded Donato's were ready to begin their wonderful journey of life together. Nicola and Liliana worked hard for years to provide for their family. With their tribe of boys growing up, the Donato's moved to the Mornington Peninsula in 1980, when Nicola bought the farm - at this very site!

The family restored the existing egg farm and this soon expanded to include a little convenience store, providing the local community with eggs, bread and milk.

As the years passed by, his eldest son Frank diversified into hydroponics. Cultivating strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce and herbs and all being sold on-site.

The Donato family and their store became somewhat of an iconic name on the Peninsula. Locals would say "I'm going to the corner shop" and people knew exactly what that meant!

Now with the third generation growing up, Nick Donato would often be found helping around the farm and in his Grandfather's store. His fresh ideas transformed what once was a simple shop into a Farm Style Café: The Mornington Peninsula Hydroponic Café.

History repeats and once again, in 2018 a young Donato dreamed of something bigger: an Italian style Café and Restaurant, a place where everyone was welcomed and would feel at home, in a way that only an Italian family can show. Benvenuti da Donato, est 1980."
- From the Donato Facebook page.

"Donato cafe will have a different look compared to the MPH cafe one but nothing will change for you as a customer. The Donato family will always strive to provide the perfect service and let all customers feel part of our family. Because you are! Our community means the world to us. None of this would have been possible without you and for this we thank you!" - Donato Family

I look forward to going back soon to write a full review of the food and service on offer here. If you beat me to it, please share your thoughts below.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Why? Pick your own herbs and lettuce, stay for a coffee and brunch.
When: Opens 7am - 4:30pm weekends, from 6am weekdays for takeaway
Phone: (03) 5916 1374
Where: 88 Craigie Road Mount Martha 3934
Cost: Average meals $20
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