When Claudio Casoni first opened his Prahran espresso bar Officine Zero in a former shoe store, he was operating on a much smaller budget than he does these days. While he always wanted to do more with the venue, it wasn’t until he was able to take over the next-door shopfront (and increase his budget, thanks to a successful nine years in the game) that he could grow the business.
Now Casoni has closed Officine Zero and, on Tuesday, will officially reopen the space as Officina Gastronomica Italiana (OGI). He's renovated the next-door shopfront (doubling capacity in the process) and re-jigged the offering. While Officine Zero was a day-time venue, OGI, which is in the soft-open phase and officially re-opens next Tuesday, will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Head chef Gabriele Coniglio, who joined the team in 2020, has created menus that offer a range of seasonal dishes. Come for the small bites, like the fried truffle croquettes or calamari, which Casoni says are best enjoyed with a glass of natural wine. There’s also plenty of cured meats – shaved in-house by Coniglio – that match well with the house-made focaccia.
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Whatever you order for starters, make sure you grab a bowl of pasta, made daily in the upstairs prep kitchen by Coniglio. While pasta offerings will be seasonal, a few will stick around, including a rigatoni with slow-cooked Wagyu ragu and a red spaghetti infused with tomatoes and served with rock lobster and semi-dried tomatoes.
But the biggest change is the new venue’s focus on wine, all of which comes from the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy. “We have curated a selection of Italian and artisanal wines, spanning natural wines, organic wine, biodynamic wines and small independent Italian winemakers,” Casoni says.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the transition from Officine Zero to OGI is the venue’s stellar courtyard, which features exposed brick walls and greenery and is lit up by fairy lights at night. While it’s now doubled in size, the dining room’s rustic feeling remains and has been amped up thanks to the addition of treasures found during the renovation, including a ceramic beer bottle from the 1920s.
Officina Gastronomica Italiana
532-534 Malvern Road Prahran
Tues to Sun 6.30am–3pm; 5.30pm–10pm