There’s a striking photograph of a red gum hanging inside Collingwood restaurant Project 49. Rocco Esposito, who owns the venue with his wife, Lisa Pidutti, came up with the idea for a city eatery one day while sitting under this particular tree on their property in Beechworth.

Project 49 is a restaurant, wine bar, cafe and food store – the latter of which opened in December last year – spread across two separate but adjoining areas in a refurbished former warehouse in the Foy & Gibson building.

Esposito and Pidutti modelled the venture on their smaller Beechworth cafe, also called Project 49 (a reference to their Beechworth home), which they opened in 2015.

“We’re trying to create [something] uncomplicated, unpretentious. But high quality at the same time,” says Pidutti. “We like style.”

Modern Australian-Italian meals are prepared by Tim Newitt – another Beechworth export who started as an apprentice at the couple’s first venue, Wardens Food and Wine.

In the restaurant, which opened in May, starters include Kingfish crudo (similar to carpaccio) with pickled fennel, mandarin, radish and olives. For main, there’s a slow-cooked lamb breast with anchovy, rosemary milk and colorful leafy-green rainbow chard.

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Esposito, formerly a director of wine at Vue de Monde, has put together a wine list according to composition, such as “aromatic” or “textual” whites and “round and fleshy” or “spicy and elegant” reds.

There’s a strong focus on local drops, too. Around 25 are from Beechworth, including Rick Kinzbrunner’s Giaconda chardonnay – a wine that Esposito says has put Beechworth chardonnay “on the map” – as well as Project 49’s own organic chardonnay, made with their neighbour’s grapes.

Cafe-side options include ricotta gnocchi with gorgonzola piccante, figs and walnuts; or pork jaw guanciale amatriciana, baked in a terracotta bowl with egg. The produce store sells a range of deli and take-home items, such as biodynamic Greenvale cold cuts, import faithfuls such as San Pellegrino and loads of stuff from Beechworth, including L’Oliveraie olive oil, Jim Jam Food’s Moroccan beans and True Blue Honey.

Project 49
107 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

(03) 9419 4449

Mon to Sun 7am–10pm