Barista Nagesh Seethiah.with co-owners Joseph Cataldo and James Duffell dine at Loading Zone Cafe, a new alleyway cafe in Odgers Lane, Civic.Canberra.
2013-03-08.
Daniel Spellman.

Barista Nagesh Seethiah with co-owners Joseph Cataldo and James Duffell dine at Loading Zone Cafe, a new alleyway cafe in Odgers Lane, Civic. Photo: Daniel Spellman

After months of delays, a small Civic cafe is about to kick-start Canberra's laneway dining revolution.

Odgers Lane in the Melbourne Building is set to transform from a simple utility laneway into a destination for a delicious meal and coffee, with a pasta bar to open this week.

Loading Zone co-owner and chef Joseph Cataldo said recent delays were just part of the three years it had taken to open Canberra's first official laneway restaurant.

Barista Nagesh Seethiah.with co-owners Joseph Cataldo and James Duffell dine at Loading Zone Cafe, a new alleyway cafe in Odgers Lane, Civic.Canberra.

Barista Nagesh Seethiah with co-owners Joseph Cataldo and James Duffell dine at Loading Zone Cafe, a new alleyway cafe in Odgers Lane, Civic. Photo: Daniel Spellman

Mr Cataldo said the concept of laneway dining hadn't been met with approval by all neighbouring property owners. A trial closure of the eastern side of the lane by the ACT government in late 2011 concerned some proprietors.

"The problem with this laneway is because it's affected all these different businesses they say something is okay and then someone will disagree, and then it goes back and then we have to renegotiate space and then we have to renegotiate how bins are placed," Mr Cataldo said."We got through it all, but that was the main thing – getting the agreement of everyone in the area."

While he was happy the cafe was about to open, he said he would have liked the government to have closed off the entire eastern side of the lane.

"I would have liked the government to do what they actually said they were going to do – close off the whole lane on this side and repave it," he said. "It was a little bit painful having to get things reduced like this outdoor area."

Despite the delays, Mr Cataldo has achieved his dream of creating a pasta bar in Canberra. Mr Cataldo said he was inspired to open a pasta bar after he spent time in Tokyo, Japan and ate at quick, little noodle bars. He wanted to recreate the concept in the nation's capital with pasta and authentic Italian cuisine.

"I've had my nonna in here, developing and showing us how she does her sugo," he said.

She gave the cafe her tick of approval, much to Mr Cataldo's delight.

Co-owner James Duffell said it was important the cafe and its food reflected their upbringing.

"What we're all about is good food and not trying to charge a lot of money for it," he said. "We figured it doesn't matter where you are, if you do something well people will enjoy it."

Mr Duffell said staff were excited to embrace the laneway concept and offer something new to Canberra diners. They have been working on perfecting their pasta and wanted it just right before they opened.

"Our lives revolve around coffee, food, family and wine, and honestly that's what we're doing here," he said.  "There's so much satisfaction not just from eating it, but from preparing it – there's a story to every product we make and we want to share that story, because there's actually a tradition behind the scenes."

While Loading Zone will be Canberra's first official laneway restaurant, it won't be the last. Masterplan approval was given to Highgate Lane in Kingston to open similar ventures and developments about to be built in Braddon will also feature laneways with shops and dining options.

Mr Cataldo said it was exciting to be among the first in Canberra to venture into the laneway.

"I hope it does take off," he said.  "I think we need little places like this in Canberra, more people to step outside a bit and create something."

Loading Zone is expected to open later this week, initially serving breakfast and lunch in a piazza-style set up.

- The Chronicle