Rosa Mitchell’s heart belongs to Sicily – we all knew that already. But, there’s plenty to love in Italian cookery. So it makes perfect sense for Mitchell to open a second venue (the first is Rosa’s Kitchen in Punch Lane), which indulges in illicit mainland cuisine. “I’ve always done Sicilian food. But I really love northern-Italian food as well,” she says. “Here I’ll be able to do dishes that haven’t normally been on the menu.”
In a nod to the past, the new venue is called Canteen, just like her first kitchen, Journal Canteen, on Flinders Lane. A self-taught cook of Sicilian extraction, Mitchell is credited with helping to establish the slow food movement here in Australia. As such, she’s all about the real: homegrown, sustainable, local and in-season. Her food is well known and much loved, both in her restaurants and as cooked at home from her approachable cookbooks.
And now, overlooking the Supreme Court Dome, Rosa’s Canteen is emerging from a layer of sawdust and extension cords. Designed by Collingwood’s HA Architects, it’s another project by Mitchell and her partners, David Mackintosh and Peter Bartholomew. A long bar slopes along the courtyard window, crafted from terrazzo, white tile and wood. With 62 seats, it’s comfortable. “It’s such an amazing view,” says Mitchell, looking out over Little Bourke. “Wait until you see it at night; the dome lights up.”
Open Monday to Friday, Mitchell believes lunch will be the main attraction. Expect the classics: veal saltimbocca, spaghetti carbonara (without cream) and “true” arancini (not the flavoured ones, she insists). Though the lunch menu ends at 3pm, Canteen will serve through to dinner with bar snacks from the grill. “We’re going to be open all day,” she says. “It could be prawns, it could be quail, it could be a little steak, or a simple salad for people who are busy.”
Head chef Braydon Cleave (ex-Tonka, Rosetta’s and Spice Temple) will also do special menus for larger groups. “We’re going to do a banquet table for six people or more, with baby suckling pig, or porchetta, or a whole leg of goat,” she says.
And, as usual, it’s all ethically sourced. If it’s on the plate in Rosa’s Canteen, it’s either been grown in her garden, is straight from the farmers’ market or occasionally foraged from the side of the road. “I’m only going to use genuine food,” she says.
Rosa’s Canteen opens on March 16.