La Pinta Chef Owner Adam Racina’s Favorite Places in Melbourne’s True North

Long ago, Adam Racina was the kind of person who rarely ventured outside of the suburb he lived in.

“I grew up in Preston,” says the chef, who runs Spanish eatery La Pinta in Reservoir, north Melbourne. “If you had asked me ten years ago if I would open a restaurant in Reservoir, I wouldn’t have said it. I never thought I would live and work in this part of town.”

Growing up, the north of Racina was a place that many new residents wouldn’t even recognize. “I remember being interested in food and things when I was 15 and wanted to visit cafes, and the nearest cafe was probably at the end of the town of Northcote,” says Racina. While the north of Melbourne is now dotted with quality cafes (as well as bars and restaurants), it still retains a few old-world charms for Racina. “It’s definitely the diversity, the multiculturalism,” Racina says. “I like the area of ​​High Street, Preston, because of the different cuisines and the different feeling you get there.”

Whether you’re an old hand like Racina or a recent convert, there’s plenty to explore in the northern suburbs. Here’s a guide to five of his favorite spots.

Moreland: Coburg Farmers Market
“Of all the farmers’ markets, this one is the best for me,” Racina says. “You can do your shopping there every week, there are many young families and it is a very diverse mix of people.”

Along with Lakey Farm meats and Drysdale cheeses, Racina loves the constantly changing selection of seasonal produce. “Right now you can get a box of organic persimmons and mountains of apples and pears, and as summer arrives there are piles of stone fruit that you can buy by the box.”

Darebin: Thornbury Picture House
In a former drive-in gas station and furniture store is the 57-seat, single-screen Thornbury Picture House. “It’s such a great place to watch a movie and then sit in the front,” says Racina. “It’s a beautiful building and they’ve done a great job turning it into a cinema.”

With its prime spot on the High Street, the 1920s-built venue is just as perfect for catching a new release (or a classic) as it is for grabbing some arancini and a glass of wine from nearby Umberto. “You can get food at Umberto, and they’ve decorated that bar at the front so well that you can just go there for a drink,” says Racina.

Whittlesea: Plenty Gorge

Twenty miles north of Melbourne really isn’t far to travel to feel removed from the bustle of the city, but that’s what you’ll find at Plenty Gorge. “It’s just a great place to walk if you don’t want to drive far,” Racina says. “It’s 15, 20 minutes in the car, but you definitely feel like you’ve gone a lot further.”

Picnicking, bushwalking, cycling and wildlife watching are all good reasons to visit this accessible retreat. When you’re ready, refuel at the sprawling Farm Vigano in South Morang.

Banyule: Vinoshis Drink Shop
Owned by winemakers Jasmine Wakely and Yuri Zinenko, Vinoshis is Racina’s pick for when you’re looking for the perfect licorice. “It’s such a great little bottle shop,” he says. “It’s great to be able to enter a winemaker’s bottle shop, and you get help, guidance and knowledge [to help you find] what you are looking for.”

There are plenty of locally produced drops in small quantities to take with you or drink at home, as well as a selection of sake, beer and spirits. And if you fancy a taste, just ask – Wakely and Zinenko are always happy to open a bottle.

Nillumbik: Laughing Waters
This is an area worth visiting in all seasons. Racina recommends going to the Laughing Waters, on the Yarra River near Eltham. “I think Laughing Waters is such a great place,” says Racina. “It’s one of those places where you have to pinch yourself that you’re in Eltham.” If you’re feeling adventurous, Racina suggests driving through the Yarra Valley. “I am a big fan of driving and walking through Christmas Hills, Warandyte and Kinglake. And I love the concept and ethos of Greasy Zoe’s.”

Explore further afield:

Hume: Marnong Estate
In the suburb of Mickleham, on the northern edge of the city, is the Marnong Estate winery and sustainable farm. Based on a farm from 1840, it offers some great examples of wines from the Sunbury region, including pinot nero (the Italian term for pinot noir), chardonnay and sparkling. The estate’s restaurant, Bankvale Run, specializes in red wine-friendly steaks cooked on a Josper grill, while the Atrium & Terrace Wine Bar serves casual bistro-style fare.

Mitchell: Trawool Estate
In the beautiful Goulburn Valley, about 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, Trawool Estate has quickly become a destination since it was acquired in 2019 by father-and-son duo Wes and Terry Old. The picturesque estate includes a boutique hotel with 20 elegant rooms (seven with uninterrupted views of the valley), a restaurant headed by former Coda chef Eric Kwek and a simple-style cocktail bar.

This article was produced by Broadsheet in association with Melbourne’s True North. Melbourne’s True North is a collaboration between Banyule City Council, City of Darebin, Discover Hume, Mitchell Shire Council, Moreland City Council, Nillumbik and City of Whittlesea, in partnership with Northlink/MNFG.

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