I was excited all week about Osteria La Passione finally coming down my chimney.
This restaurant is unpretentious and like a casual deli with random bottles and lamps and bits and pieces all around and a few tables for eating.
The service is excellent and very Italian - childish to say but true.
As soon as we walked in, a piece of spinach (grown on the owner's farm) fritatta was served with a splash of flavoursome olive oil. This is a place where you don't order, the chef decides what you will eat. Similar to Da Noi for avid fans of that place.
Next was a lovely octopus, potato, celery and green olive salad - superb.
Next was the best pumpkin soup I have ever had with a touch of parmesan, delicate as ever and nice with the salted bread fried in pork fat. I think pumpkin soup is over-rated but not this one.
Tripe was next in a tomato sauce. Personally, I am not a fan of tripe. Others ate it but would not usually order it. As my friend said, "it did ruin a good tomato sauce". But at the same time, great that this place is brave enough to serve it.
A lovely in-betweener was a plate of cured meats all home made - exceptional.
The pasta was orechiette which was simply and expertly cooked with broccoli, chilli and good olive oil.
The meat was lamb shoulder cooked in chocolate hops from Mildura serviced on barley with Tuscan kale - fanfriggintastic.
Even the tira misu which I don't normally eat was great. My friend put it simply "when someone gives me something that I wouldn't like and I like it, I think it speaks volumes."
The cheese platter was also one of the best I have had for a while accompanied with honey walnuts, pears and caramelised orange onions. Even the bread had a special smokiness to it.
The wine was excellent, as was the prosecco (normally a "but rough" but this one was smooth), the grappa, the limoncella and the dessert wine - you can tell what kind of night this became.
The company was also great, a lot of discussion around planners versus those who like spontaneity, there was a real mix on the table. The planners this time though were happy with the surprises during the night.
My friend summed the current flavour of the restaurant scene very well "I get the whole fresh ingredient thing but you can't build a dish around a single ingredient that was grown on your farm. Like a pig on a spit, that is a wank, there has to be skill in the cooking.
Osteria La Passione is built on a few fresh ingredients cooked very very well. Let's hope it is consistent.
The set menu is $75 but be warned when they ask if you want extra dishes like cured meats and cheese, they are not part of the price. The cheese platter was $15 each.
Total cost including a lot of alcohol was $160 per person.
I'll be back.