28 Jul 2021
Despite growing up in an Italian family in Melbourne, with sauces and sausages being cooked at home, it was travelling in Europe in the 1990s that sparked Bart Crescia’s interest in cuisine and hospitality. Australians weren’t eating prosciutto at the time so Bart set about educating people about food.
He started his career in the industry with a woodfired pizzeria (E-lounge) in 1998 when he recognised that Melbournians were missing out on the authentic Italian style food. His next venture, Zonzo, was in the Yarra Valley. When the expression of interest for a restaurant venue came up in Whittlesea, Bart headed out to have a look at the property on which Farm Vigano stands.
The property is on Crown land and is heritage listed because the original owners of the building, Mario and Maria Vigano, made a significant contribution to the food industry in Australia. The homestead was in disrepair but Bart liked it immediately. “Each time I drive down that hill and walk down the path I am mesmerised by the views, the landscape and the gorge,” he says. “The trees do remind me of the countryside of Italy.”
Bart worked with the Working Heritage Committee and the state government to restore the building and make it safe for the public. The dining room is original but the front bar has been completely remodeled.
The authentic Italian restaurant specialises in family gatherings and large groups, offering tables of 10, 20 and 50 alongside more intimate tables for two. There is an emphasis on simple food shared at the table, which encourages interaction and connection. On any given weekend you can see how much the Italian community appreciates Farm Vigano; they travel from far and wide to share a meal.
What to eat at The Farm
Do you prefer pizza or pasta? Try the hand stretched pizza bases with traditional toppings of fior di latte mozzarella, scamorza, fresh ricotta, sopressa salami and other Italian favourites. Satisfy your hunger with a fettuccini osso bucco ragu, gnocchi with truffles and cream or farfalle with pistachios and introduce your kids to these specialities via the dedicated ‘bimbi’ menu.
Arrosto, a slow cooked lamb with salsa verde, is a super popular dish, available until sold out, every day. Order bread, salad and wine for the full experience. The other option is to order from the sharing menu and allow the staff to take care of you, Italian-style. An antipasto platter, pizza and an assortment of delicious foods are placed in the middle of the table allowing everyone to dig in. The menu changes regularly and reflects the produce harvested from the gardens.
The best time to visit Farm Vigano
Any season is a wonderful time to visit Farm Vigano. The orchard is home to 500 fruit trees: oranges, lemons, limes, nectarines, peaches and quinces. The property is an active farm and the trees cycle through the seasons, blossoming and fruiting with the weather.
The farm has 15 acres for community use, including a bocce pitch and a tennis court. A road passes through with access to the walking tracks and bike trails of the Plenty Valley Gorge.
Bart’s top tips:
For a beautiful coffee on a property with similar heritage to Farm Vigano, visit Two Beans and a Farm.