I allow plenty of time to walk to Leichhardt for this week's Rippas lunch, so I can browse the baby shop round the corner and feed the Pea before the others arrive. Fifteen minutes early, after splashing out on a Bumbo play tray, I wheel him into Locantro Fine Foods, hoping to find a table to accommodate us.
I'm hovering near a lady who looks like she's about to leave when a man in the corner leaps up from his table and offers it to me. He even cleans it for me, and brings over extra chairs when I say I'm meeting three other mums. Owner Vittorio Locantro clearly values his customers, and it turns out mums make up a hefty number of them – during the week, he says, there's often a pram at every table, or mother's groups of five at a time.
I order a hot chocolate and get feeding, looking out past a stack of food show medals posted on the window. Vittorio's son Pino is the award-winning pastry chef, and the walls display posters of his new cookbook, Dinner with the Baker.
The others arrive and as usual we comment on how fast our boys are growing up. Baby Pea demonstrates this by stealing the opportunity, while I'm cooing over the other babies, to get his hands onto the table and knock my now-cold chocolate all over the table, pram and floor. Oops.
From a limited savoury selection of pies, quiches, sausage rolls and pizza slices, I pick a salami, artichoke and olive pizza and turn down the side salad. This is wise as I manage to cut it up and eat it one-handed. It's a good size for the price, with a light foccacia-style base, lots of cheese and lovely hot salami.
I should follow it with something sweet but instead I channel my change into take-home goodies - thickly sliced ham to go into the pasta dish I've planned for dinner and a loaf of ciabatta to go with it. I'm lucky to sneak a piece of someone else's treat though - an Italian custard-filled doughnut that reminds me of the Very Hungry Caterpillar before he turns into a butterfly.
Locantro Fine Foods
9 Catherine Street, Leichhardt NSW 2040
p. (02) 9568 3637