At 6am the day’s choreography starts at the New Farm Deli. People in Brisbane rise early in summer and wait for the doors to open for the first coffee of the day. Vince and Maria own and run the Deli and it is Vince who conducts the floor. In the morning he either works the coffee machine orchestrating, the flow of drinks, or is nearby chatting with customers and chivvying the young staff along. Even when chatting, he is casting around the floor, checking the ebb and flow of service and quickly pointing to cups piling up or glasses to be stacked.
The Deli is loud and crowded. Tables are tucked close together and laughter bounces off the marble floors and the glass windows. The left side of the space is the actual deli with shelves of imported pasta, olive oil and vinegar and the large serving counter next to the fridges full of aged prosciutto, parmegiana reggiano, sopressa and mozzarella. With the Christmas stock in, hundreds of panettone hang from the ceiling and boxes of sweets and chocolate are piled up near the shelves.
I often join the morning crowd for my one coffee of the day. Going to the Deli is the space between leaving home and going to work. It gives me a chance to read the Murdoch papers which I no longer pay for, but occasionally need to flick through to maintain my level of outrage at their strange and nasty campaigns. Amongst the clatter of cups and plates, I can turn half an ear to the men in crisp business suits at the next table talking property development and watch the retirees sitting over their coffee with the morning paper. Later in the morning, shoppers come in for a break and men speaking Italian wander by to chiack with Vince and down a short macchiato.
Gearing up for the lunch trade starts early and reserved signs are progressively placed on the tables by late morning. People queue to order lunch at the counter, while the floor staff allocate tables as you wait, squeezing people in to what already looks like a full café. Waiters walk by with big bowls of pasta, heavy with prawns, and generous deli salads from the kitchen, while the foccaccias, flat and salty are quickly put together at the counter. After lunch, kids are brought in after school for a cool drink and the expresso laden business meetings carry through the rest of the day.
The Deli works hard all day. There is always a small queue waiting for sliced mortadella or a scoop of olives. And the floor of the café is never quiet with the dance between customer and staff continues until the doors are finally closed on stragglers some time after 6.00 pm. Then the floors are cleaned, and chairs stacked, ready for tomorrow’s performance.
New Farm Deli
900 Brunswick Street, New Farm
Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch