Pre-pandemic, Jenna Holmes spent as much time as possible in Europe, particularly on the Italian island of Sardinia, which is home to a “blue zone” region – one of several in the world where a high percentage of people live much longer than average, largely because of their lifestyle and diet.
With European travel still a no-go, Holmes is bringing a bit of that blue-zone vibe to Melbourne. Pasta Club is a sensory, carby, private dining experience you can book exclusively for you and your pasta-loving mates.
“People [in blue zones] live longer because they follow these broad principles of food being slow, simple, pleasurable and a really relaxing experience – they’re just chilled-out all the time,” Holmes tells Broadsheet. That’s echoed in the Pasta Club ethos: “You can take a really long time, there’s more of a fluid menu and you kind of just get what you get, which is exactly what everyone is going to Europe to experience.”
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Each Pasta Club session includes starters, three handmade pastas and two sides – all of which Holmes makes herself or with help from guest chefs – plus drinks and desserts. “The whole concept of a blue zone is about local and seasonal products, so we’re trying to do the same here,” says Holmes. “That’s partly why there’s no [set] menu.”
Dishes are based on seasonality and ingredient availability, because everything is sourced locally (including wine from Preston’s Jamsheed). Pasta-wise, you might get gnocchi in a rich tomato-and-basil sauce, pillowy beetroot ravioli or a classic cacio e pepe spaghetti. Sides could include peperonata with marinated olives and bread from Fitzroy’s Rustica; bruschetta slathered with goat’s cheese; or a radicchio, fennel, orange and dill salad. For dessert, the lemon sorbet with dehydrated orange and white chocolate has proved popular.
Vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options are available, too.
Pasta Club runs intermittently in the courtyard of new Collingwood cafe Eleventh Commandment. Holmes has converted the pergola-covered space into a quintessentially European dining area, with a colorful mosaic table she created herself and plenty of hanging greenery from her plant-centric interior-design business Plant Mama. But there are plans to expand to a bigger space in the near future.
“I wrote a uni assignment back in 2011 about how I wanted to create a restaurant concept [like this],” she says. “In 2019 I set up a private Instagram for Pasta Club and figured that everyone in Melbourne loves Italy, so it might gather some interest. The first Pasta Club sold out and now we’ve got more demand than we can handle, which is stressful but great.”
Pasta Club costs $145 a head for a minimum of 12 people. Register here to be the first to hear about February and March dates.