After nearly three months shuttered, Lygon Street wine bar Agostino is back. But the experience looks a little different – and not just because of its current 18-person capacity.
And just as the wine bar’s customer capacity has more than halved – with tables separated by stacks of wine boxes – its kitchen staff has also been reduced.
Instead of dishes expedited from the building’s huge shared kitchen, a lone chef is now posted in the bar, surrounded by jars of pickled vegetables and a prosciutto-carving station, working in tandem with a single front-of-house person.
The new menu is a shift from the previous entree-main-dessert split.
“We were trying to steer away from what a lot of [other restaurants] are doing, which is restricting people to a set menu,” general manager Jonathan Armao says. Instead there’s a collection of small share plates to choose from. “You and a friend would be able to eat up to eight dishes.”
Dishes are written on timber-mounted posters, and might include house-made focaccia, marinated sardines and sliced-to-order prosciutto; or pickled vegetables and baccala mantecato (salted-cod dip) with taralli.
There’s also roasted bullhorn peppers with squacquerone (a soft, creamy and slightly tangy Italian cheese), and two $12 pastas – tonnarelli (similar to spaghetti) cacio e pepe, and orechiette with anchovies and greens – as well as a pre-lockdown favourite, paccheri (large pasta tubes) in creamy vodka-tomato sugo.
Booze-wise, in place of a printed list, hand-pick a wine from the bottle shop next door (corkage is $20, or free for bottles over $100). Expect natural and not-so-natural drops from Italy and Australia.
There’re also a dozen or so wines by the glass, a tight edit of cocktails (including a Persimmon Bellini and a Dirty Old Fashioned), and zero-alcohol wines by Non.
Wine connoisseurs can also take their pick from the temperature-controlled wine room in the bar’s old bluestone cellar, which doubles as a private dining room for 20.
Agostino is open Thursday to Saturday from 4pm.