It’s not hard to draw an excitable crowd in Melbourne with the words ‘new Italian restaurant’, but for Riccardo Momesso and the team at Valentino, their new Hawksburn venture is something very different to your traditional Italian eatery. From the understated interior – with high ceilings, marble bench tops and Thonet Bentwood chairs – to the antipasti bar and extensive wine list, a sense of classic simplicity lingers throughout.
After penning his first book on Calabrian cuisine last year, the move from Sarti to his own venture seemed only logical for Momesso. Renowned for its love of slow-braised meats and hearty vegetables, Calabrian food has long held a place in the hearts of many and Valentino is rewriting tradition in all the right ways.
If grazing is your thing, look no further than the extensive traditional antipasti list. Classics like marinated sardines and eggplant caponata find a comfortable home amongst more robust items such as pork filled zucchini flowers and lamb polpetti. But an Italian restaurant wouldn’t be quite right without pizza, pasta and satisfying, meaty mains. At Valentino, it’s almost as though the recipes from nonna’s kitchen have been nicked, updated and given a little polish.