Carmine Costantini opened Osteria la Passione just before Christmas, and the Italian-native is doing something a little different for Melbourne diners - although we have seen it before at South Yarra’s Da Noi - that is very European in its execution. This is a restaurant without a structured card menu, rather a daily menu built around what Costantini finds at the markets each morning. “When you book, I ask if there is any requirements with your diet, if you’re a vegetarian, like that and then I go shopping for that night with those things in mind.”

Costantini arrived in Australia six years ago and has worked at Cafe e Cucina, Tea Rooms of Yarck (for Pietro Porcu who also happens to own Da Noi) and Stefano Di Pieri in Mildura. Osteria la Passione is a small 35-seat restaurant over two rooms where the decor is striking in its simplicity and the whole operation is built on passion.

“The name la Passione is about my passion, you can’t do this job without passion for it.” His passion sees him open five nights a weeks offering a minimum of six courses of regional Italian food with an antipasti display in the dining room and dishes such as fritelle di Baccala (baccala fritters) and Capretto arrosto (roasted kid) brought out from the small kitchen. If you feel like more than six courses, simply ask, as each table dines exactly the way they want to and Constantini works with the customer to give them an individual experience, “But if you’re in a hurry, don’t come here,” the chef insists as good food and six courses takes time and should be enjoyed.

Costantini’s ‘right-hand man’ is Mandy Kennedy, most recently from the Healesville Hotel, who assists in restaurant operations and looks after the floor some nights. They are still waiting for the liquor licence but happily invite BYO.

Osteria la Passione
486 Bridge Road, Richmond
(03) 9428 2558

Tues-Sat 6.30pm-10pm

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