Author(s): Paul Jones; Linda Jones
Linda Malcolm spent her twenties travelling through Europe, working in hospitality and dreaming of transporting a little of the magic of southern Italian alimentaris home. Back in Melbourne, she teamed up with old school pal Dolores Napolitano and decided that what Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, needed was an old-school deli. The pair had no money and no business plan, the most basic of working kitchens and no toilet at their chosen corner site, as well as just two collapsible tables thrown together for nix by their coffee supplier. But 15 years later, Alimentari is one of the best-loved fixtures in this constantly evolving food precinct. Regulars and explorers come here for breakfast, lunch and take-home dinners, as well, of course, as coffees - there is a constant all-day trade. The original site has been extended at least twice and in 2014 Linda and her business/life partner Paul Jones (also the chef) opened Smith Street Alimentari, a couple of blocks east. Despite being a bigger, grander version, they have managed to transplant a little of the original's rustic, homely soul to Collingwood. Such is the community love of this place, when Dolores died of cancer five years ago, loyal customers were represented in their hundreds at her funeral. Paul and Linda's vision since has been to grow the business serving an array of standout salads, soups, sandwiches, and changing daily pastas, as well as food influenced by Linda's Lebanese heritage (her aunty is the famed Melbourne restaurateur Abla Amad). Linda's mother has introduced kibbeh, haloumi pies, labneh and pickles - and many days the 70-year-old is there in the kitchen leading the team. Linda and Paul are often asked to open more outlets across Melbourne, but they know that doing so will dilute the magic of what they have created.