By Melissa Keogh
Cruise along the Spencer Highway towards Maitland, but don’t blink because you might miss Moonta’s sweetest spot.
On the corner of the barren highway and a dusty dirt track is the Coffee Barn and Gelateria, an unsuspecting haven of artisan gelato and pancakes that will delight even the harshest of dessert critics.
Visit during school holidays and you’ll have to fight the sticky fingers and chocolate-stained grins to get a good look at the cabinet of homemade treats made from scratch.
The man with the gelato scoop is Italian man Franco Martino, while the woman flipping the pancakes is his wife Janette Martino.
The pair moved 12 years ago to the Yorke Peninsula from Adelaide for a simple sea change and with a vision to set up a quiet bed and breakfast to help ease them into semi-retirement.
They fell in love with gelato making and are now run off their feet, particularly in the hotter months of the year.
“Franco makes the gelato and the pancakes tend to be my baby,” says Janette.
“He’s the man for the gelato because it’s his passion. For the coconut gelato, he buys the coconuts, takes the shell off and creates it himself and the macadamia and pistachio nuts he roasts himself.
“We don’t use flavours, we want to give people our best.”
The Coffee Barn and Gelateria has 16 different flavours on hand.
Franco prefers to shy away from attention-seeking weird and wacky flavours and instead focuses on high quality classics featuring profiles such as caramel, fig or peanut butter.
“The flavours change by the hour because if we put something like Ferrero Rocher out, it might go in half an hour,” Janette says.
The top three flavours are the mascarpone and caramel fudge, the peanut butter fudge, and caramel fig and roasted almonds.
Janette’s sweet and savory pancakes are popular in winter.
The most popular is the banana and caramel – made with real banana of course.
The Coffee Barn and Gelateria is on 11ha of the old Moonta Mines and includes a scattering of vintage machinery.
An 1860s building formerly known as The Stables and now named Villa Martini has been restored into a bed and breakfast.
“Moonta is booming at Christmas time. People come here to fish and a lot of people have a second home here – a holiday home – and they come here regularly,” Janette says.
“We consider them as locals.”
Franco has a background in the building industry and Janette also ran a cookie franchise in Adelaide for some time.
The pair travelled to Europe for two months recently, visiting an Italian university to gain inspiration on gelato making.
“Franco talked to every gelato maker we visited,” Janette says.
“I used to be a real coffee and cake person but it just doesn’t do it for me anymore, it has to be gelato.
“It’s our life.”
Coffee Barn and Gelateria, on the corner of Spencer Highway and Warren Street, Moonta, is generally open Fridays – Sundays, and every day during school holidays.
Header photo courtesy of the Yorke Peninsula Country Times Newspaper.
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