First came Duo and now second, Osteria Uno – but whatever way the numbers fall, it figures that Sarah and Jordan MacDonald would know exactly what to bring to their dedicated following in Birkenhead.
A 48-seat pasta restaurant, Osteria Uno opens its doors tomorrow. It’ll offer handmade pasta dishes, as well as snacky small plates, Italian-inspired cocktails and an Italian-New Zealand wine list.
It seems like a natural progression for the couple, who have made Duo Eatery an in-demand north shore destination since opening last year – and Osteria Uno is right next door.
As Broadsheet reported in August, the MacDonalds decided to take on the site after its previous lives as an embroidery store, a butcher and a fish’n’chip shop.
“We uncovered the tiles, the original floor and entrance tiles, and it’s been pretty amazing to be able to find little parts of the original building to try and highlight or retain, to give the place a lot more character,” Jordan tells Broadsheet. “At night, when the light’s down low, it feels pretty cool. We’re pretty proud of it.”
The renovation had its challenges – “I feel like no matter how many restaurants you open, there’s always so many hurdles,” says Sarah – but even the cracks in some of the wall tiles, an effect that’s hard to replicate from new without it looking forced, give the space a more lived-in feel that’s less intimidating for passers-by and the suburban location.
It's also sophisticated, with Kirsty Mitchell of Mitchell Addison designing deep-red leather banquettes to line the walls, paired with dark wooden seating and chairs. A central table surrounded by stools mimics a similar table at the front of Duo Eatery.
On the launch menu, there are five pastas that range in heartiness, shape and dough. Some pasta shapes are familiar, such as spaghettini with aglio e olio, or rigatoni – served here with lamb belly, preserved lemon, smoked paprika and oregano – but others are less common. “We wanted to make shapes that not many people use. There are some classic ones in there, but cresta de gallo – I haven’t really seen that anywhere,” says Sarah. This small pasta is shaped like a rooster’s crest, and at Osteria Uno it’s served with confit duck leg, balsamic and fried rosemary.
They’ll do a few more that’ll be on future specials boards or subbed in for seasonal menu changes, and there’s a dedicated kids’ menu with three pastas and a dessert.
Start your meal with some small plates, such as a pizza fritta topped with beef tartare, sour cream and a dusting of pecorino, or market-fish crudo on a soft bed of buffalo curd, topped with green Sicilian olives. Arancini are served individually with ‘nduja, mozzarella and a white anchovy, and coming specials include a crayfish maritozzi bun.
Dessert follows the Italian-inspired theme – you might order limoncello tart or house tiramisu dolloped straight onto your plate – and cocktails do, too; try a Garibaldi with Campari and squeezed-to-order orange juice, a limoncello and pomelo vermouth spritz, or a Frangelico sour. Wines have been sourced from both Italy and New Zealand, appealing to both those who are keen to try an unfamiliar varietal and others who prefer to stick with what they know.
Gleber Chaparro is joining Jordan in the kitchen as Osteria Uno’s head chef, having previously worked at Lilian and Amano, and Robbie Walmsley has come on board as restaurant manager.
Sarah and Jordan enjoy bringing their individual strengths to each new project. “Jordan’s the voice of reason, the practical man,” says Sarah. “And I’m the extreme ‘ideas but worry about it’, and then make Jordan make it a reality.”
“Sarah’s a planner with lots of systems—” starts Jordan.
“—and Jordan doesn’t write a bloody thing down!” Sarah laughs.
“I also feel like we couldn’t not work together,” she continues. “We met working together, we couldn’t not do it together now. It’s just part of our life.”
Osteria Uno opens on Thursday October 26 at 4pm.
140 Hinemoa Street, Birkenhead, Auckland
Tue to Sat 4pm–late