Al Dente Enoteca
2020 put Italian chef Andrea Vignali through the wringer. After the international visa-holder was stood down from his job at Melbourne institution Grossi Florentino, he launched pasta-delivery service Al Dente. Vignali shut up shop as the city tentatively reopened after the first lockdown, but swiftly relaunched in the throes of the second.
Already a lockdown success story, it became even more so when Vignali and business partner Davide Bonadiman opened a bricks-and-mortar home called Al Dente Enoteca – on Nicholson Street in Carlton at the beginning of 2021. Shortly after opening, they learned that they needed to apply for a new planning permit (generally required for the sale and consumption of alcohol), which resulted in an unexpected liquor-licensing delay.
As with most restaurants, serving booze is a pivotal part of the business model – and Vignali’s already feeling the effects of not being able to, especially given that an enoteca is a type of venue that's specifically geared towards enjoying foods with wine.
But Al Dente Enoteca is well and truly up and running – just minus the booze. Vignali and his team are serving house-baked focaccia, freshly shucked oysters and basil oil-y burrata. And for the main event: tortellini with cacio e pepe filling; pasta del giorno (“of the day”), which could be anything from a slab of lasagne to a rich bolognaise; and beef stracotto, a comforting stew with red wine and potato cream. (Plus, pasta is also available for pick up and delivery through Cookaborough, a startup that gives chefs and home cooks a platform for selling and sharing meals.)
And in place of the alcoholic stuff? Fancy booze-free cocktails including smoky verjuice Bloody Marys, G&Ts with Seedlip and Strangelove tonic garnished with compressed cucumber and thyme, and zero-alcohol wine from Melbourne label Non.
You can also stock your pantry at the enoteca’s adjoining shop, which Vignali has called the sapori (“flavours” in Italian). Shop Vignali’s house-made Piccolo Pickles range (think radicchio, cauliflower and plum) used in many of his dishes, Mount Zero olive oil and imported Italian balsamic vinegar, St Ali coffee, and more.
Support Al Dente by visiting its enoteca and sapori, or by ordering pick up or delivery via Cookaborough.