AusFinance Gazette

Miss traveling? Visit five ‘little’ countries in your own backyard

Last week, the Inner West Council formally deemed the area between Livingstone and Victoria roads in Marrickville as ‘Little Greece’, paying homage to the thousands of Greek immigrants who’ve helped establish the suburb over the past 60 years or so.

A welcome addition to Sydney’s growing list of pint-sized precincts, Little Greece finds itself in good company. While borders remain shut and our passports march silently towards expiration, here are five countries you can visit without even having to stop for petrol.

Little Turkey

19 Kilometres west of Sydney’s city centre, you’ll find the heart of Turkish Culture in Auburn, which boasts a proud population of Turkish Australians who celebrate their heritage via their tastebuds. Among the most notable and nosh-able is Menzil Bakery, providing the community with a special piece of Turkey’s rich patisserie cuisine for since 1994. There’s also a bounty of Turkish delicatessens full of imported cheeses, meats, and other Middle Eastern delicacies. For perhaps the most famous of the latter, Kismet Café or Gaziantep Sweets offer the best Turkish Delight outside of its namesake.

Little Shanghai

Nope, this isn’t another name for Chinatown, but in fact a whole other culinary precinct celebrating Chinese cuisine. In Ashfield, up to 80% of shops are Chinese small businesses, with dumpling dealers and Asian supermarkets lining Liverpool Rd. Everywhere you look, you’re reminded of the influence of Shanghai culture—within metres of each other, you’ll find New Shanghai Night, Taste of Shanghai, and Shanghai Dumpling. If you’re craving some chicken feet or have a hankering for fish balls, the local supermarkets are stocked to the brim with regional specialties you won’t find elsewhere.

Little Italy

Perhaps the most renowned of all tiny territories, Leichardt’s ‘Little Italy’ precinct on Norton St has been a cultural icon for decades. Earning its name after the post-WWI immigration boom, the Inner West suburb housed the first Italian coffee shop in 1956 whilst also introducing the concept of Al Fresco dining to the burbs. In 1999, The Italian Forum opened, modelled off the traditional piazzas of Italy, and for the next decade or so it was your one-stop shop for all things Italian—pizza, pasta, espresso, gelato—you name it. In scenes reminiscent of the fall of the Roman Empire, the once bustling precinct seems to have lost its mojo, but there are plans to restore it to its former glory with the return of the forum night markets as well as the hugely popular Norton Street Italian Festa that has attracted 140,000 visitors in the past. Though it’s definitely in need of revamp, the pizza from Moretti Ristorante and gelato from Bar Italia make it worth the trip alone.

Little India

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Between 2001-11, the Indian population in the western city suburb of Harris Park rose from 14% to 43%. As a result, the area has undergone a huge transformation, with the main road of Wigram Street now peppered with authentic Indian restaurants, beauty parlours, religious centres, and saree shops. It’s no surprise that the best Indian food is made in Harris Park—and the best place to get it is Ginger Indian restaurant, loved by locals and visitors alike for their Homestyle North Indian Mughlai cuisine. Just a few shops down the road you’ll find Dosa Hut-Harris Park, another local haunt known to take spice levels to the extreme. For vegetarian Indian street food and snacks, Chatkazz is the spot, and for dessert, you can’t go past Taj Indian Sweets, known for their many types of Burfi.

Little Portugal

Officially crowned Little Portugal by the powers that be (AKA the Geographic Names Board) in May 2020, Petersham’s primo precinct along Audley Street and New Canterbury Road between Audley Street and Hunter Street is a must visit for two reasons, and they both involve your taste buds. The first is a humble Portuguese chicken shop called Frangos Charcoal Chicken that has garnered somewhat of cult following over the years, and the second is home to the most famous Portuguese tart outside of Southern Europe, Sweet Belem Cake Boutique. Family-owned Charlie’s Deli also rules the streets and hearts of this lil’ Lisbon, stocking more bacalhau than they (surely) could ever sell. There’s also Silvas and Glorias for legit Portuguese tapas, specialty meats from a Portuguese butcher and a liquor mart specialising in wine imported from the cork connoisseurs. Saude!

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