If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to appreciate the things we love. And Brisbane loves an Italian restaurant.
Perhaps that’s why there’s suddenly so many pasta spots opening around town. From late-night Valley haunts to al fresco Teneriffe eateries and cosy West End boltholes, operators have been opening new restaurants faster than punters can keep up.
And they are pasta joints first, rather than Italian diners or fine diners. It would be a stretch to label some of them Italian at all (and operators are upfront about that). What ties them together instead is their menus – usually, a short selection of house-made pasta accompanied by starters and sides, and maybe a dessert or two. Here are four 2020 openings that you need to check out.
CJ’s Secret Pasta Club is dead. Long live Pasta Club. When CJ’s owners Leila Amirparviz and Darcy Adam were hit by the one-two blow of losing their dine-in licence and then Covid-19, they decided to shut their tiny Hoogley Street pasta restaurant and start looking for a new spot. The solution came in the recently vacated Flora By Greenhouse Canteen tenancy on Boundary Street. In just two weeks, they converted the space into Pasta Club, an intimate, retro-inspired 40-seat pasta hideaway. A concise menu is hand-written by Adam each day and changes depending on the produce available. There are small plates to start followed by a few vegetable dishes and then a trio of pastas – you might eat pumpkin agnolotti with burnt butter and pine nuts, or fusilli with prawns and red sauce. You can BYO vino (and BYO vinyl for the record player) but there’s also a drinks menu with Australian wines made in Italian styles, and classic cocktails such as spritzes and a Negroni.
Salt Meats Cheese owners Stefano de Blasi and Edoardo Perlo moved into the old Longtime digs in August to open Eterna, a late-night Italian restaurant inspired by the street food of Rome. The venue will feel familiar to Longtime tragics – it has the same layout as its predecessor and retains much of the furniture. Many of the smaller details, though, have changed, with shutters replaced by curtains, the globe lights and greenery swapped for pendents. For food, there are snacks inspired by Rome’s Testaccio market – including supplì (a smaller, street-food variation on arancini), and meatballs cooked in amatriciana sauce – and an efficient selection of antipasti and mains. Still, pasta is the main event: you might eat a rigatoni carbonara, cacio e pepe prepared with house-made tonnarelli, or a pacchero di Gragnano (large tubular pasta) with sautéed clams and Moreton Bay bugs. The wine takes plenty of inspiration from Italy’s peninsula and island regions, with Sardinian vermentino, Sicilian nero d’Avola and Umbrian trebbiano Spoletino all featured.
Uh Oh Spaghettio
Uh Oh Spaghettio is a late-night pasta joint made for the middle of the Valley. Housed in the two-level, heritage-listed 19th century Apothecaries Hall on Ann Street, the fit-out complements exposed brick with pink neon, concrete and giant pasta-themed art. Out back is a glass-enclosed, marble-tiled pasta room that allows diners to watch the pasta machine in action. The menu keeps things easy. Antipasti dishes are $5 per serve, salads are $10 and pasta is $15 a pop. There’s Peroni-infused macaroni with anchovy gremolata and fermented honey ricotta; pork and veal bolognaise with pappardelle and tomato sugo (Holman uses his grandmother’s sugo recipe); and squid ink spaghetti with seafood, fermented chilli, fried garlic and house-made XO sauce. For starters, there’s house-baked focaccia, bruschetta and bolognaise-loaded fries. Uh Oh Spaghettio is open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays with DJs spinning into the wee hours. A natural-leaning wine list is evenly priced with by-the-glass options at $13, carafes at $38 and full bottles at $55. There are also beers on tap and six cocktails.
Siffredi’s Spaghetti Bar
Opened by Stokehouse Q alums Ollie Hansford, Aleks Balodis and Stephen Overty, Siffredi’s is about as far removed from fine dining as you can get. It’s 50 seats – 10 inside, 40 out – served a rotating menu of five pastas, four snacks and a simple dessert. The food is accompanied by a 12-bottle wine list and a short cocktail menu. Hansford is making his pasta fresh daily and changing the menu frequently – it might include tropical crayfish tossed with pumpkin-seed pesto and stuffed zucchini flower, or braised beef tongue with shiitake mushroom and pickled radish. Beyond the main wine list, Siffredi’s is serving 1.5- and 3-litre “bagnums” of wine. There’s also a short selection of beers and a cocktail list that includes an Aperol spritz, an Americano and an Aeropress Negroni. The space itself is slotted into a ground floor tenancy of the handsome, heritage-listed London Woolstore building and has kept much of the pastel pink and green paint job from its former identity as Havana Bar and Dining.