25 July 2023

Toppa to Gol Gappa: Five surprising dishes you'll find in Griffith eateries

| Oliver Jacques
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Daniel D’Aquino and Mel Collier at Zecca, a restaurant full of surprising menu items. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

There are some country towns in Australia where your main dining-out choice is still battered or fried.

Griffith isn’t one of them. As one of the most multicultural regions of Australia, it offers visitors their choice of Italian, Indian, Greek, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Turkish eateries, as well as high-quality pub fare and one of the world’s top 101 steakhouses. It’s a foodie paradise in the middle of nowhere.

READ ALSO ‘Only one outside a big city’: Griffith’s Bull & Bell ranked in world’s top 101 steak restaurants

Many of the restaurants source their fresh produce directly from local farmers and offer menu items you’d be unlikely to find elsewhere in regional Australia. Let’s have a look at five of the most popular choices that might surprise newcomers to town.

Toppa pizza – Il Corso Cafe

Tomato toppa pizza

The toppa pizza is thought to be unique to Griffith. Photo: Il Corso Cafe Facebook page.

“If you’re new to town and you only try one thing on our menu, go for our toppa pizza. I don’t think you’ll find it anywhere else besides Griffith,” Il Corso Cafe owner Joesph Gioia says.

A toppa is like a pizza without the toppings. It’s just the base, made with tomato or garlic and sprinkled with local olive oil. It’s usually ordered as an entree, though some people have it as an afternoon snack.

“I know people who come especially to Griffith because they can’t get them anywhere else,” local chef Rod Pieper once told the website delicious.com.au.

Whole roasted quail from Myee Quail Farm – Bull & Bell Restaurant

Quail dish with beer

Bull & Bell Steakhouse’s quail is sourced locally. Photo: Bull and Bell Steakhouse.

Griffith’s Bull & Bell Steakhouse was recently named one of the world’s top 101 steakhouses, the only Australian restaurant outside Sydney or Melbourne on the elite list.

But the relatively new establishment offers a lot more than just steak on its menu.

One of its most popular dishes is the whole roasted quail, which is usually hard to find. The birds are sourced from the third-generation Sergi’s Myee Quail Farm in Tharbogang. Tony and Maria’s sons Sam, Don and Glen all work alongside each other, overseeing 35,000 quail processed on the farm each week.

Dolma – Yenda Kebab House

Rows of dolma

Yenda Kebab House offers tasty dolma. Photo: Supplied.

Mir Yousef Saadat, an Iranian who sought asylum in Australia in 2013, spiced up the heart of Yenda by opening a new Middle Eastern eatery in the small town. He serves a lot more than shaved meat on flatbread, including the traditional Turkish dish dolma – rice and aromatic vegetables stuffed inside grape leaves. The word dolma comes from the Turkish verb ”dolmak” – which means “to fill” (It’s one of the most versatile verbs in the language: a shared taxi in the country is called dolmus, meaning it only starts its journey when full).

Mr Saadat also plans to bring something else new and exotic to Griffith for the first time.

”I have a back outdoor area where, in the future, I can put some chairs and people can smoke shisha [waterpipes] while they drink tea,” he said.

Triangoli and other obscure pasta shapes – Zecca Handmade Italian

Triangle-shaped pasta dish

Triangoli pasta is an item that might be here today and gone tomorrow at Zecca. Photo: Supplied.

Married couple Ben and Michaela Di Rosa and their best friend Daniel D’Aquino came up with the idea of opening Zecca Handmade Italian after a food holiday in Italy. They created a menu full of regional Italian dishes unfamiliar in most of regional NSW (“No tourist Italian fare” is one of their slogans).

READ ALSO Five minutes with Ben Di Rosa, Zecca Handmade Italian Griffith

One of their specialities is rare, unknown and obscure pasta shapes, such as triangoli, which, as you might guess, are shaped like triangles.

You’ll find several unique items in their restaurant, but if you see something you like, you’d better hurry. The menu changes every week, if not every day.

Gol Gappa – Swaad Punjabi Da

Pani puri

Gol Gappa, or Pani Puri, is a North Indian delicacy now served in Griffith. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Indian food is beginning to rival Italian as Griffith’s most ubiquitous cuisine, with three new subcontinent-themed restaurants opening in the past six months.

Zecca’s Ben Di Rosa calls the Indian street food Gol Gappa, also known as Pani Puri, one of his favourite dishes.

Swaad Punjabi Da started this delicacy – crispy, fried puffed balls filled with spicy potato – and it’s already a big hit. You fill them up with liquid as if you’re having shots.

“All the girls love it,” owner Henry Lal says. It’s pretty popular with men, too.

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