There’s no rest for the tired. After a successful four-week debut in Sydney, That’s Amore – a food and wine pop-up established by Rootstock co-founder Giorgio De Maria and former Marque head chef and Cafe Paci founder, Pasi Petänen – is bringing its freewheeling, Finnish-Italian brand of fun to Melbourne. It just doesn’t feel like fun quite yet.
When Broadsheet checks in on Team That’s Amore (joining Petänen and De Maria is former Café Paci general manager Zoltan Magyar, who will be playing the roles of kitchen hand and waiter), everyone is flat-out getting Crossley Street café Traveller - That’s Amore’s base for the next five nights – ready for its first night as a pop-up wine bar. On the menu: Petänen’s fun take on Italian food; the lo-fi wines championed by De Maria; good times aplenty.
The decision to bring the show south of the border was fairly last-minute so there’s lots of decision-making happening on the fly. The shelves are being hurriedly stocked with alcohol from both near (the new-release Snakebite sour ale from Tasmania, as seen at last year’s Noma pop-up) and far (more Italian wines and DOCGs than you and I have ever heard of, let alone tasted).
Chef is trying to figure out how to best utilise the café’s drive-thru-style window as his “pass”. Management makes the executive decision to do away with chairs, making That’s Amore standing-room only for the 15-or-so guests that it can hold at a time (even by Melbourne laneway café standards, Traveller is a small space).
The trio’s spirits are upbeat, no small feat considering they’re fresh off a nine-hour Sydney-to-Melbourne road trip involving towing a trailer full of crockery, cooking equipment, a freezer and other restaurant necessities.
“It’s going to be a wine bar for everyone,” says Petänen when I ask him to describe That’s Amore Melbourne. “Cheap and cheerful with lots of love, mate. Lots of love.”
Petänen is remaining somewhat tight-lipped about the concise, seven-dish menu but expect house-made pasta served with prawn oil, the famous pizza-flavoured carne crudo served at Rootstock 2014 that inspired the pop-up’s name, and a jersey milk gelato topped with the Piedmontese digestif, Barolo Chinato. In typical enoteca style, wines will have prices written on them in chalk, with bottles chosen and priced for by-the-bottle enjoyment with friends. While by-the-glass wines will be available, De Maria has worked hard to put together a list that’s high in drinkability and versatility.
“If people want, we’ll suggest some wines to go with dishes, but the idea is you come here with some friends and have a bottle, like you do in Europe,” he says. “Everything that’s been chosen goes very good with the food and tastes distinct. We want you to come here, spend an hour drinking wine and eating some food standing up and then go to the next place.”
That’s Amore runs from Sunday April 2 to Thursday April 6 at Traveller Coffee, 2/14 Crossley Street, Melbourne. The bar is open from 5:30pm till 1am and reservations are not accepted.