e know George is a busy man; he’s everywhere after all. Taking his imprint to the south this time, he’s opened a new restaurant opposite the emerging foodie precinct at Yarra Place. It’s called Mama Baba and humble pasta is the star.
The restaurant opened last week to much anticipation and a brimming crowd. Housed in a long industrial space, a glassed-in temperature-monitored cool room displays this silky handmade pasta that’s come from a huge pasta machine (rumoured to be worth $45,000). That said, Calombaris claims that what he is doing here is quite pared back, or “simple, uncomplicated Roman-Greco,” he says of the menu, which breaks into two columns of pasta dishes.
‘Mama’ dishes are inspired by George’s Greek Cypriot mother, and ‘Baba’ by his half-Italian father (his grandmother is Sicilian).
The spaghettini carbonara – with calamari, crispy maple pork, pumpkin parmesan and saffron brodo (a hearty broth) – is an innovative take on a classic. It’s just like your mama didn’t make, which is why it resides in the Baba column. Other dishes from Baba include ravioli with beef, bone marrow, beetroot and wasabi, while Mama offers Kritharaki with braised chicken meatballs and pastitsio (a Greek pasta bake) with wild greens and béchamel.
Patrons dine casually at small round tables for two, longer tables for groups and up at the bar, where they’ll make you a Cherry Cola of chinotto, vodka and maraschino liqueur to wash down bar snacks of crab bruschetta with blood orange jelly, Bolognese arancini and polenta chips.
With Calombaris busy keeping a close eye on his dynamic empire Made Establishment (which includes Hellenic Republic, St Katherine’s, Maha, PM24, The Press Club & Little Press), diners at Mama Baba are in the hands of chef Jonathan Mackie.
There’s no doubting Calombaris is a people pleaser, and so the accessible menu at Mama Baba even features a column of ‘Baby Food’, where mamas, babas, babies and everyone in between are most certainly catered for by this celebrity chef and his ever-expanding food empire.
21 Daly Street, South Yarra
(03) 9207 7421
Mon-Thu & Sat 5pm–late
Fri & Sun noon–late
(DJ on Friday and Saturday nights)