Food, Feature

Nonna Nellie A Dynamo at Bossy Boots Cafe in Brighton

Nonna Thomasina (Nellie) is the Italian dynamo who serves up some of the finest home cooked food in Melbourne as part of the kitchen staff at Bossy Boots Cafe in Brighton. Nellie is a Melbourne culinary icon, and has been cooking for as long as she can remember. Her flair for Italian cooking continues to thrive and for the last 7 years Nellie has been a regular chef at Bossy Boots in Brighton. Always a smile on her face, and passion for Italian cooking, Nellie prepares everything by hand in exact measure, with fine technique and the best ingredients. No short cuts here. 

Nonna Nellie was born in Calabria, Italy 1952 (she's 62 years old) and has abundant energy and young looks (she runs and keeps fit). Both her parents died when she was 13 and Nellie came to Australia in 1969 at the young age 14. She has always been in the kitchen. She loves it. Even as a baby, she was in the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. She often recalls a story when her grandmother yelled something about "cooking something the right way, with no short cuts and plenty of love. If you don't do it the way I showed you, then get out of the kitchen!"

Cooking is Nellie's first love and she still cooks with the same philosophy that was passed from her mother and grandmother.  Amazingly, Nellie was 'cooking like a Nonna' when she was 7. With no formal training, she cooks beautifully. She cooks with her heart & soul. Her husband, Phil is a great man and cooks with the same love. He makes his own wine, limoncello, fresh sausages, salami and other cured meats. Ben Forehan the owner of Bossy Boots, went to school with their eldest son, Patrick.

The World Loves Melbourne watched Nellie in action and was amazed by her skill. Top chefs have trouble picking up the skill and nuance required to master Italian traditional cooking.  Nellie says Italian cooking "runs in her blood."

Nonna Nellie pictured rolling the cannelloni. The kitchen staff at Bossy Boots are highly trained and experienced with 5 chefs all having worked at this gourmet cafe for several years. Surely this is one of the best cafe kitchen teams in Melbourne.


Nellie is the master of fresh cannelloni, having rolled the fresh pasta she fills each of the cannelloni with her secret recipe. She always insists on baking with another tray on top to protect the moisture.

Nonna Nellie's cannelloni is available from the counter at Bossy Boots Cafe, as a ready made dinner for time poor professionals.

Nellie also cooks the fresh Italian style lasagne at Bossy Boots cafe. Bossy Boots insists on using fresh pasta daily and Nellie will not compromise with bought or packet pasta. This makes a huge difference to a lasagne! Quality pasta, top grade meat and top notch sauce, with quality cheese on top. The World Loves Melbourne sampled this lasagne at home and rated it as some of our best ever. Seriously.


Nonna also likes to cook her famous "Rosetta". The World Loves Melbourne understands this is rare in Melbourne.

Nellie prepares the sections of the Rosetta (translated Rose).

The fresh pasta sheet is filled with free range chicken mince, sautéed veggies, topped with a light béchamel and baked in a tomato, carrot & zucchini sauce...

 Then Nonna Nellie gets out the fork and spreads the topping into the sauce.

Finally the grated pecorino cheese is sprinkled on top...

Nonna Nellie is a Melbourne culinary hero in the burbs, passing on the skill and traditions of generations of her Italian heritage. Bossy Boots has one of the largest cafe kitchens in Melbourne, where Nellie thrives, encouraged by Ben and Rachael Forehan and their team of fine chefs. Visit Bossy Boots and check it out.

Copyright © 2015