The restaurateur makes the restaurant. That’s the maxim that applies to Rinaldo Di Stasio – Ronnie to his friends – of Bar Di Stasio in St Kilda. The bar next door came 25 years after the original establishment, Café Di Stasio, which opened in 1988.
In an industry where eateries rise as often as they fall, Di Stasio has become a true Melbourne icon. It’s not old school; it’s timeless. Ronnie believes in rapport with customers, many of whom he calls friends, food that doesn’t need explaining and wine that begs to be finished.
Empty bowls imply that customers care not for explanation when it comes to La Gricia Sbagliato, but home cooks might be interested to know that sbagliato translates to "incorrect". This recipe is erroneous in that it’s a contemporary version of what shepherds in the Italian mountains would eat for their daily meal. They used only the ingredients most accessible to them other than pasta: sheep and pigs. The former provided the pecorino (a hard cheese) and the latter the guanciale (cured pork jowl). Herbs, seasoning – and some even argue tomato – is technically a bastardisation of the original.
The Di Stasio kitchen recommends using Liguori, Benedetto Cavalieri or Rustichella d’Abruzzo pasta, all of which are made from high-grade durum wheat or semolina by bronze extrusions, which give the pasta a rough and porous surface. This allows the pasta to bind better with the sauce.
120ml olive oil
100g guanciale, diced
1 brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bird's eye chilli, finely chopped
500ml tomato passata
250g cherry tomatoes
1 small bunch of basil leaves
1 large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan, to serve
Heat a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add about half the oil and fry the guanciale until lightly golden and crisp, about 4–5 minutes. Remove from the pan, leaving the fat and oil behind, and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan and fry for 4–5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the passata, cherry tomatoes and guanciale and simmer gently until the sauce thickens, about 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta for 8–10 minutes in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Add the basil, parsley and remaining oil and toss to combine. Season and serve with the parmesan on the side.
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