Food News

Coming soon: A new-style deli serving one of Perth’s best conti rolls

Deli’s Continental was a hit during its December pop-up. Now it’s turning permanent, with focaccia, pizzas and meatball subs on the menu.

The classic conti roll at Deli's Continental, Perth.

The continental “conti” roll is a west coast classic. Created by Italian migrant-owned delicatessens in the 1950s, the essentials are the bread – a long, crusty bread roll with a slight chew – stuffed with sliced cured meats, cheese, pickled and fresh vegetables. Like the laksa to Darwin and the bung fritz to South Australia, the conti roll has a special place in Western Australia’s food culture.

“It has the best mouth-feel,” says Stev Makhlouta, chef and co-owner of Deli’s Continental in Perth. He grew up eating conti rolls from Charlie’s Fresh Food Market in Morley. “It has all the textures and everything that you want in a perfect lunch, and you can eat it on the go.”

The Re Store, Charlie’s Fresh Food Market, Angelo Street Market and Montello On Main mark the spots for conti-roll hunters in Perth. Soon, locals will be adding another name to the roll call: Deli’s Continental in Inglewood. What started as a pop-up at Rossonero Pizzeria in Maylands, in Perth’s inner city, is set to become a permanent shopfront and deli in September.

First-time business owners Makhlouta and Aldo Putzu met at the beginning of 2020 while working as pizza chefs at Rossonero Pizzeria. When Makhlouta’s plans to move to Sydney were derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his pipe-dream of opening a conti roll place came to a head during chats with Putzu. On their first day of trade in December, they sold out of their rolls in just 20 minutes. “We were overwhelmed by the interest from friends and customers,” said Putzu.

Stev Makhlouta and Aldo Putzu of Deli’s Continental.

It could be something to do with the bread. They take their dough seriously at Deli’s Continental. Putzu is a pizza maker with more than 20 years’ experience (including stints at Si Paradiso and Automatic). After two months and some hundred kilos of flour, he developed the perfect custom conti bread roll: it combines the signature slashes of a baguette, the crisp shell and “ashy” flour of a rustico, and the cloudy, soft crumb of a filone (the fluffier texture makes it all the more better for soaking up the sandwich juices).

And at Deli’s Continental, they slice their meat fresh every day – their classic conti roll includes layers of mortadella, casalingo salami and Hungarian salami. “As soon as it’s cut, it starts to oxidise pretty quickly. And if you leave the meat in the fridge overnight it doesn’t retain the same quality,” says Makhlouta.

With the Inglewood space comes a larger kitchen, allowing Makhlouta and Putzu to boost their output of conti rolls and expand their baked offerings.

Deli’s Continental takes inspiration from the Italian forno. “In Italy, it’s not called a deli,” says Rome-born Putzu. “We call it forno which also means oven. Basically it’s a business that’s based on all the things you can bake in an oven.”

Expect cookies, toasties, focaccias, meatball subs, tray-style pizzas and Roman-style pizzas. “We have roughly 12 different kinds of dough that I’m working on,” says Putzu. “For every single thing, it’s going to be a different kind of dough.”

The new space comprises an open kitchen with a big L-shaped counter, space for roughly 20 diners, a few bench stools indoors and a smattering of alfresco seating, plus a street window that looks into the bakery area. “You’ll be able to see Aldo throwing bread, making pizzas and stuff […] Everything is going to be as open as possible,” says Makhlouta. “We love talking and interacting with people all the time. That’s half of what we love about our job.”

The pandemic also played into the decision to build a space with a bigger kitchen and retain a focus on takeaway. “It can still survive if things were to go pear-shaped again,” says Makhlouta.

If the response to the Deli’s Continental’s pop-up is anything to go by, the permanent space will become a go-to for conti rolls – and more – in Perth.

“The dream for any cook is to have a space where they can be just creative on their own terms,” says Makhlouta. “Through Deli’s we get to live that dream […] And it all started literally from a sandwich.”

Deli’s Continental is set to open in mid-September, 2021

2/861 Beaufort St, Inglewood WA

For updates, follow Deli’s Continental on Instagram/@delis_continental

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