Parco Canteen takes its coffee seriously

Carol Saffer

Jarrod Balme and Adrian Pagano, co-owners of that funky looking building adjacent to Argyle Square on Lygon St Carlton, are hospitality professionals.

On May 31, they celebrate four years in what used to be a power substation and is now Parco Canteen.

Eighty per cent of their clientele are local residents or workers.

They know their names, their usual orders and, in some cases, what goes on in their lives.

Friendly banter, “brilliant coffee and a great menu,” Jarrod said, ticked all the boxes.

As owner-operators, they are on the floor or in the kitchen with the joy of work shared between them, eliminating staffing problems.

“We see a lot of the same faces for coffee and lunch,” Jarrod said.

“Monday to Friday, we are always busy with the Carlton workers.”

“We cater for people on the move and want something quick.”

The uniqueness and the positioning on beautiful Argyle Square is a drawcard for their customers who have time to sit, chat, eat and drink.

“Right now, the leaves are falling, and it is very lovely,” Adrian said.

“We are busier than ever, but we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”

“We still want to deliver what we consider a premium product and maintain good customer relationships.”

They have been able to adapt to the changing conditions.

“We used to open seven days and cut it back to six,” Jarrod said.

“This means we get Sunday off and excited about public holidays.”

Jarrod said they were famous for their bacon and egg rolls. Additionally, they make all of their sauces and condiments in-house, even though it is a tiny workspace.

They use Dench Bakery and Coffee Supreme for their menu staples.

“We like to think we are right at the upper echelon of the game,” Jarrod said.

Carlton resident Lester Levinson said he and his wife Francoise were regular locals at Parco. Lester said [Jarrod and Adrian] stuck with the community through thick and thin during the lockdowns.

“It is a wonderful meeting spot, and we have no complaints about the food.”

“I like a strong long black – but not too long, and they always get it right.” •

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