There’s plenty of water and salt – acqua and sale, respectively – in the tale of North Perth’s newest Italian restaurant.
There’s the water and salt of the collective sweat and hard work that chef Fabio Concas, his twin brother Michele (restaurant manager) and partner Ina Pasilyte (an all-rounder that divides her time between the front- and back-of-house) put into transforming a former pizzeria at North Perth Plaza into a 30-seat, Edison bulb-lit vision of neighbourhood casual-comfort. There’s the water and salt of the Mediterranean Sea that surrounds the island of Sardinia: the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the Italian region the brothers Concas call home. But most of all, there’s the water and salt that’s used in the kitchen to produce Acqua e Sale’s two primary stocks in trade.
“Our restaurant is focussed on pasta and pizza, so water, salt and flour are our main ingredients,” says Fabio.
The water and salt (and flour) are put to good use. It helps, of course, that Fabio has also racked up an impressive CV since attending hospitality school in Italy at age 13. Before spending four years at Como The Treasury as opening sous chef at Post, he cooked around the UK including a stint at Pied a Terre, the two-Michelin-starred London restaurant owned by Perth-chef-done-good and The Final Table star, Shane Osborn. Despite his experience in high-end kitchens, his approach at Acqua e Sale is angled more towards polished comfort eating than fussy fine dining.
The handmade pasta is uniformly excellent and the portions are big. The squid-ink seafood spaghetti is toothsome and heavy on clams, mussels and fish, and liberally seasoned with shaved bottarga (dried mullet roe, a Sardinian ingredient that imbues everything it touches with a deep, oceanic funk). The gnochetti sardi – an all-semolina, ridged pasta also known as malloreddus in other regions – dressed in a saffron-spiked pork sausage sugo is gloriously bitey and a nice contrast to the more typical, pillowy gnocchi (the menu does offer fluffier potato-based gnocchi too). Purists may consider the pastas over-sauced, and maybe they’re right. But I’ll be too busy mopping up my plate with the chewy house-made bread – half-sourdough, half-yeast – to argue the point.
Speaking of the bread: it’s baked daily in the same wood-fired oven as the pizza and arrives on the table in elegant wooden bowls also nested with pane carasau, Sardinian flatbread that’s a little thicker than the carta di musica you might see at, say, Lulu La Delizia and Perth’s better Italian restaurants. The yeast-risen pizzas ferment for 48 hours and are rolled thin to produce a crisper, lightweight pie with a bubbly crust that’s more Roman than puffy Neapolitan in style. Toppings are traditional and sparsely topped (although the kitchen makes concessions for ham-and-pineapple-loving blasphemers such as yours truly) and the pies are dangerously easy to eat. Consider Acqua e Sale’s pizzas a contender for some of the city’s best. For now, the 30-seat restaurant (its capacity is capped at 20 diners during stage-four covid restrictions) is BYO while it waits for its license.
Acqua e Sale
391 Fitzgerald Street, North Perth
(08) 6162 2579
Tue to Sun 5pm–10pm