Brisbane is spoilt for choice when it comes to Italian cuisine. And in recent months, the city’s Italian food scene has managed to get even better. Some new additions are more traditional, others less so, but they’re all worth visiting. From a fast-paced Italian trattoria to a tiny aperitivo bar and a new contender for Brisbane’s best pizza, here are seven recent Italian-inspired openings you should check out.
The biggest opening of the year (so far) belongs to Bianca, a beautiful, fast-paced and very fun Italian trattoria from the team behind Agnes, Honto and Same Same. Visually, the space feels very similar to neighbour Same Same, with in-demand architects Richards & Spence once again handling the design. The whole venue is bathed in a peachy glow, its bright orange branding inspired by the distinctive acrylic-handled Sabre Paris cutlery. Chef Ben Williamson’s menu includes snacks, entrees, seven house-made pasta dishes and a clutch of main courses. Pastas are intended to rotate, but always on the menu will be the paccheri pomodoro with stracciatella, and a pork and fennel lasagne made popular by Agnes’s pop-up bakery. Group sommelier Rani Parish and Bianca sommelier Millie Gosney have collaborated on a 350-bottle list that focuses on Italian wines and local vino made Italian-style.
After closing on Creek Street in March last year, Coppa Spuntino has been reborn by the river in an airy tenancy that used to be home to Il Centro. Tom Sanceau and Bonnie Shearston worked with architect Adam Laming to create a beautiful Amalfi-inspired venue with tiles, timber, white rendered walls and rattan lights. Chef Vinny Clist’s snack-focused menu includes old Coppa favourites such as the burrata, pork and veal meatballs, pork and beef pappardelle, and the immensely popular gnocchi with kale and walnuts. For mains there’s roasted porchetta with rocket and apple, and a bistecca alla fiorentina designed to share. Drinks-wise, Coppa has introduced a slushy machine that’s spinning frozen prosecco and a frozen Negroni. Otherwise, there’s a focus on Italian wines and styles, and local minimal-intervention wines.
Inspired by the aperitivo bars that you find littered throughout Italy, Bar Brutus is owned by the team behind Julius Pizzeria and Beccofino (two of Brisbane’s best Italian restaurants). Inside, the intimate, slick fit-out features an eight-person white marble-top bar lit with sphere lights, lots of black panelling and dark-brown bar stools. Long-term Julius barman Stefan Angelovski has joined as a co-owner; you’ll find him behind the bar serving a small, curated selection of aperitivi, spuntini (snacks) and digestivi. The drinks menu includes a bunch of different spritzes, classic cocktails, signature cocktails and a predominately Italian wine-list. Snacks include salted and toasted pepitas and almonds, crostini with Cantabrian anchovies and tomato salsa, and house-baked focaccia with mortadella and buffalo mozzarella.
From the Mama Taco team comes Mario’s, an aperitivo bar and restaurant in West End. Rome-born chef and owner Raffaele Persichetti enjoys riffing on traditional Italian cuisine. His signature dishes, for example, include lobster lasagne, funghi calzone fritto (a mushroom-filled wood-fired bread) and scampi crudo with buffalo-milk stracciatella and raspberry dust. There’s a tasting menu with matching wines available, but you can also order à la carte. The fit-out features red paint, wooden floorboards and a large bar backed with an impressive range of around 50 grappas and 50 amaros. There’s a number of Australian and Italian wines including some lesser-known varietals, and a “reserve list” with high-end barolos and barbarescos.
Ex-Beccofino staffers Mauricio Zarate, Pedro Sanson and Stefano Spataro opened Paddington’s Elementi in February. Fortunately for the team, the space on Given Terrace (formerly Arrosto) was already fitted with a Marra Forni woodfired pizza oven and a beautiful exposed-brick fit-out. Spataro handles the pizza menu, which is divided into classic rossa options – including the Salsiccia (scamorza cheese, pork sausage and onion) and the Marina (mozzarella, white anchovies, artichokes and watercress) – while the pizza bianca get a little more creative. Sanson is responsible for the rest of the menu, which includes pea and fontina cheese arancini; fried stuffed olives; and a trio of pastas, including artichoke, potato and sweet onion-filled ravioli. Zarate runs front-of-house and his wine list includes a solid selection of Italian drops but also ventures into lesser-known varietals and wines.
La Costa Restaurant
Stefano de Blasi and Edoardo Perlo (Eterna, Salt Meats Cheese, La Valle, Cielo Rooftop Bar and La Costa Bar) opened La Costa Restaurant in the old Foresters space. The bones of the previous tenancy are still there, but gone are the flashy references to Flatiron-era New York. Instead, de Blasi and Perlo (with the help of interior stylist Sarah Vize) opened up the space and brightened the colour scheme. The food is a variation on Eterna’s uncomplicated style of pasta and Salt Meats Cheese’s Italian pizza, alongside a handful of classy mains. Pastas include a ‘nduja linguini with garlic and white-wine sauce, and pappardelle with truffle cream, parmesan and sliced truffle; pizza includes classics such as margherita, quattro formaggi and more singular creations such as the Roma Capitale (sliced potato, rosemary, pancetta and fior di latte); and mains feature a whole baby barramundi, mussels poached in white wine, and a 300-gram sirloin. For drinks, there’s the Maybe Sammy-designed cocktail list from La Costa Bar next door, accompanied by an internationally minded, small-producer-focused wine list and a number of tap beers.
In February, Brisbane Italian icon Otto reopened inside the distinctive former South Bank digs of Stokehouse Q. Nothing major has changed on Will Cowper’s menu either, but this still feels like an entirely new restaurant. You might start with a Rangers Valley beef carpaccio with truffle dressing, followed by mains such as lamb rump with roasted tomatoes, eggplant and basil pesto. Pastas can be ordered as an entree or main and (beyond the celebrated spaghettini) include a tagliolini with smoked ham hock, egg yolk, pecorino and pepper, and an octopus mezze maniche (short tubular pasta) with cherry tomatoes, green olives, capers, basil and lemon. To help down the food, Alan Hunter’s enormous wine list remains one of the best in town. It ranges internationally across regions and decades but specialises in small-producer Italian drops.
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