Carbs are never not comforting, but they’re doubly so in winter, and quadruply so in lockdown. Pasta especially. This lockdown, swap the dry supermarket-bought stuff for fresh and handmade – and support the Melburnians making it. There’s a brand new gnoccheria with up to 60 different kinds on rotation, a slick deli devoted to Bologna-style pasta and a refined new spot where “restaurant quality” is an understatement.
A much-talked-about lockdown success story, Al Dente went from pasta-delivery service to swish, fully fledged enoteca – with an adjoining sapori, or shop (“flavours” in Italian) – in less than a year. Helmed by two ex-Grossi Florentino chefs, Andrea Vignali and Davide Bonadiman, its fresh pasta is topnotch. In the sapori, freezers are packed with crab ravioli; casoncelli alla Bergamasca (pasta traditionally filled with sausage, mortadella, egg and butter); semolina pappardelle and tagliatelle; and Vignali’s famed cacio e pepe tortellini. House-made sauces might include Sicilian pesto, truffle butter, lemon curd, and slow-cooked lamb ragu and bolognaise. But Al Dente hasn’t forgotten its delivery-service roots – it’s available through Cookaborough. A highlight of the current menu: fragrant, ready-to-heat truffle lasagne.
This slick new deli is all about fresh, handmade pasta – and not a whole lot else. It’s bringing a bit of northern Italy to Station Street in Fairfield, serving pasta just how you’d find it on the streets of Bologna (where executive chef Elena Kavallaris learned the art of pasta-making). Outlining the small shopfront are display cases blanketed with all sorts of options: delicately folded spinach-and-ricotta tortelli, crimped ox-tongue ravioli and bechamel-slathered ragu lasagne. Also find two Italian classics rolled into one, in the form of eggplant-parmigiana ravioli. And to accompany the pasta? Plenty of sauces (choose from traditional sugo, beef-and-pork ragu and a vegan oyster-mushroom variety, plus a few buttery finishing sauces), and focaccia with roast-garlic butter.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Gnoccheria, by small-batch pasta company Take Me Home, has been delivering freshly rolled gnocchi, handmade pasta and ready-to-eat meals from its Coburg home. But, just as Melbourne comes to terms with a fifth lockdown, it’s opened a new outpost – in Middle Park. The bayside store has a similar set-up to the Coburg original, with up to 60 different kinds of gnocchi on rotation (three cheese; beetroot and goat’s curd; pepperberry and parmesan; and a whole lot more), available by the kilo or in 500-gram packs. Owner Felicity Giuliani uses family recipes as a starting point, but she takes a few liberties with items such as vegan lasagne, and gnocchi with burnt butter and saffron. Sauces include a passata made using organic tomatoes and basil grown on the family’s Thorpdale farm.
Additional reporting by Stephanie Vigilante and Quincy Malesovas.