Having recently joined the team at Little Collins Street’s Pentolina, chef Gabriele Olivieri brings along finely tuned skills gained from some of the world’s top kitchens in Italy, London and Montreal – and, most recently, Melbourne’s own Bottega.

Olivieri hails from Italy’s Province of Rimini – a short distance from Veneto, a hub of prosecco production (including Porta Dante). “In the north of Italy, the locals drink prosecco all year round. But here in Australia, it’s a wonderful summer drink,” he says says. “It’s not a heavy drink, so it’s good for matching with light food and flavours.”

The key to this food and drink match is using prosecco that is authentically Italian, and one that will complement rather than overpower the dishes – Porta Dante specifically has notes of apple, pear and apricot aromas which makes it an easy prosecco to pair with a variety of Italian-style meals.

To start a summery Italian banquet, is Olivieri’s Crocchetta di Baccalà (salted cod and potato croquettes) and Acciuga del Cantabrico (Spanish anchovies, piquillo peppers and buffalo mozzarella on sourdough toast) which are designed to share.

Moving down the menu, the Pesce Spada Marinato (pink peppercorn semi-cured swordfish with fennel, grapefruit and pistachio salad) is the entrée, while the Asparagi (charred asparagus with parmigiano and aged balsamic) forms a verdant side and the Conchiglie Alle Cime di Rapa (shell pasta with rapini, chilli, garlic and pangrattato) is a main-sized pasta. Combine the dishes with a glass or two of Porta Dante prosecco, and your evening is off to a fine start.

“The Acciuga del Cantabrico is a dish I’ve created since joining Pentolina. I’ve become really interested in anchovies since my last trip home to Italy, when I noticed that they’re becoming a really popular dish,” says Olivieri, who has been in Australia since 2008. “At Pentolina we pair Spanish anchovies with piquillo peppers, as they do in Spain, and I add an Italian touch with mozzarella.”

A Sicilian influence is presented in the Pesce Spada Marinato. Here, Olivieri serves a carpaccio of swordfish that has been partially cured in a solution of orange, dill, sugar and salt for 24 hours, then thinly sliced. “Most of the big fish, like swordfish, that we find in Italy come from Sicily,” he says. “We often think about food in relation to land and where it grows best, and Sicily is also known for its oranges and pistachios.”

Then there’s the Asparagi. “Asparagus grows well in the soils around where I grew up,” says Olivieri, “and balsamic vinegar de Modena and Parmigiano Reggiano are from nearby regions that are just 50 kilometres apart. It’s a traditional and very popular combination where I come from.”

Crocchetta di Baccalà
(Salted Cod and Potato Croquettes)
Makes approx. 25

1 fillet of baccalà (salted cod), unsalted
5 desirée potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 litre cream
1 litre milk
2 bay leaves
1 small bunch thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
200g parsley, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
100g flour
4 eggs, beaten
700g panko breadcrumbs

Optional: lemon aioli or mayonnaise, to serve.

Place the baccalà, potatoes, most of the cream (leave a dash aside for later), milk, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns in a large pot on the stove and bring to the boil. Then, turn the heat down low and let the mixture simmer until the potatoes are cooked (approx. 1 hour).

Strain the mixture and set aside the potatoes and baccalà. Mash the potato and pick the baccalà flesh from the bones. Combine the mashed potato and baccalà flesh together. You can discard the bones.

Add the chopped parsley, garlic and remaining dash of cream to the potato and baccalà mixture. Mix together until nicely combined.

Roll the mixture into little balls (approx. 3cm diameter) and place them on a large tray, nicely spaced out. Let the croquettes cool down in the refrigerator, covered, for approx. 2 hours until nice and hard.

Place flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Dip the croquettes, one by one, into each bowl to cover them completely. Make sure you do it in the correct order: flour first, eggs second, breadcrumbs third.

Deep-fry the croquettes at 170°C for about 2 minutes. (If you don’t have a deep-fryer, fry them in olive oil in a deep pan on the stove.)

Optional: serve with lemon aioli or mayonnaise.

Acciuga del Cantabrico
(Spanish Anchovies, Piquillo Peppers and Buffalo Mozzarella on Sourdough Toast)
Serves 4

4 fillets of Spanish Cantabrican anchovies
2 piquillos pepper, sliced in half on the long side
4 thick slices of buffalo mozzarella (approx. ½ of a mozzarella ball)
4 slices of sourdough bread
Extra-virgin olive oil

Lightly char the sourdough slices by grilling them on a hotplate (or in a pan on the stovetop) with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil for approx. 30 seconds on either side. Transfer the toast to a serving plate and place one slice of mozzarella on each piece of toast.

Place a slice of piquillo pepper on top of each slice of mozzarella, followed by an anchovy fillet.

Finish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Pesce Spada Marinato
(Pink Peppercorn Semi-Cured Swordfish With Fennel, Grapefruit and Pistachio Salad)
Serves 4

Cured swordfish
500g swordfish (choose a nice round log shape)
15g pink peppercorns, crushed
350g salt
500g raw sugar
Zest of 1 lime
Zest of 1 orange
½ bunch dill, chopped

Fennel, grapefruit and pistachio salad
4 baby fennels, thinly sliced
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 ruby grapefruit, peeled and thinly sliced
40g pistachios, toasted
Pinch of pink salt
Dash of extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

To cure the swordfish, place it in a tray with the pink peppercorns, salt, sugar, dill, orange and lime zest, and massage in the marinade until all the surface area is well-coated. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Lightly wash the marinade from the swordfish and return to the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Ideally, leave it for a few hours before serving.

To make the salad, season the fennel, grapefruit, pomegranate and pistachio with pink salt, extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Serve onto four plates.

Thinly slice the cured swordfish and lay the slices on top of each salad. Finish with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and another pinch of pink salt, to taste.

Conchiglie Alle Cime di Rapa
(Shell Pasta With Rapini, Chilli, Garlic and Pangrattato)
Serves 4

800g fresh conchiglie (shell pasta), or 500g dried pasta
2 bunches of rapini (substitute with 3 bunches of broccolini if rapini is out of season or you can’t find it at your local greengrocer)
8 birds-eye chillies, deseeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
200g panko breadcrumbs
50g parsley, chopped
Pinch of salt
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Optional: pinch of salt and pepper
Optional: parmigiano cheese, grated or shaved

Prepare the rapini by trimming approx. 3cm from the ends of the stalks then washing, draining and chopping it into small pieces (the stalks, leaves and flowers of rapini are all edible). If you’re using broccolini, trim approx. 2cm from the ends then wash, drain and chop it into small pieces.

Toast the breadcrumbs in a saucepan with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil, 2 crushed garlic cloves and the chopped parsley. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the fresh conchiglie in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes until al dente (or cook the dried pasta to packet instructions). Drain and set aside.

Heat the remaining extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan and add the remaining garlic and chilli. Lightly fry for a few minutes until aromatic.

Add the rapini (or broccolini) and cook for a further 3 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and mix together with the broccolini and oil mixture. Cook for a further minute.

Check the seasoning. If you like, add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate and finish with the toasted breadcrumbs and parsley.

Optional: sprinkle with parmigiano cheese.

Charred asparagus with parmigiano and aged balsamic
Serves 4

12 spears green asparagus
12 spears white asparagus
40ml Aged Balsamic of Modena
120g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved
Pinch of salt
Dash of extra virgin olive oil

Trim the ends of the asparagus spears (approx 2 cm) and lightly peel them with a potato peeler or paring knife.

Blanche the asparagus spears for 2 minutes in boiling water. Remove from the saucepan and allow them to cool down in a bowl of iced water for approx 5 minutes. Once cool, dry the asparagus spears with paper towels.

Season with salt and extra virgin olive oil and grill for 3-5 minutes on a charcoal grill (or in saucepan on a stovetop) until browned to your liking.

Place the asparagus on a serving plate. Finish with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and Aged Balsamic.

This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Porta Dante.