Opening Bar Carolina took a little longer than expected.

“The building had its…complications,” explains Joe Mammone, the restaurateur behind Il Bacaro and Sarti, who has been attempting to make his first foray south-side for some time.

“There were walls and ceilings caving in on us.”

Thankfully, Mammone and his team – which includes designer Chris Connell and engineer Michael Amore – escaped unscathed. And the resulting Toorak Road fit-out was worth the effort. This former Carousel Ice Cream store has transformed into a little slice of Venice, with terrazzo floors out front and textural floorboards out back, handmade leadlights in an azure tint, and custom-made steelwork by Amore.

“Chris and I have worked really hard over the last six months to come up with something that was a bit cutting edge,” says Mammone. “We wanted a European modern feel … and something a little bit different to everyone else.”

Mammone imported a woodfire Josper oven from Spain to give his French neighbours a run for their money. “France Soir serve a great steak, so we wanted to see what we could do as a point of difference,” Mammone says.

Head chef Paolo Masciopinto gives most of the mains a blast in the Josper, such as the wild barramundi encrusted in salt and herbs, which comes wrapped in a little parcel that steams it in its own juice. A 700-gram rib-eye, aged for 60 days, is served simply with a scoop of seeded mustard.

If you’re not feeling meaty, pasta’s rolled out in-house. Mammone recommends the tagliolino con crostacei, long flat ribbons of noodles with Moreton Bay bugs, porcini mushrooms and dried chilli on top. The most photogenic dish, however, is a perfect sphere of tiramisu – seemingly beamed in from the future – full of coffee, savoiardi, chocolate and mascarpone.

You could also just linger over a plateful of aged prosciutto and stracciatella, with a bottle of fiano.

“Come in and have a salumi board and a glass of wine in the front section,” suggests Mammone. “We wanted something where people could come in and have a big plate of pasta, for all different occasions, not just a special night.”

In any case, you don’t have to worry about the ceiling. Mammone expects Bar Carolina to be here a while. “There was a lot of engineering. It’s probably been over-engineered now. We’ve built it so it can stand for the next 50 years.”

Bar Carolina
44 Toorak Road, South Yarra
(03) 9820 9774

Hours
Mon to Tues 5.30pm–10pm
Wed to Sun 11.30am–10pm

barcarolina.com.au