Casa, according to its owners, is a difficult proposition to categorise.
Some guests will classify Casa as a cafe and keep it in mind for good coffee. Some will slot it straight into their Leederville-Mount Hawthorn-West Perth lunchtime rotation. Others will be here mostly after dark, either to dine and drink in-house or to buy takeaway wine. And some will do all the above. The one pigeonhole that Casa does fit into – at least as far as management is concerned – is “personal”.
“I think Casa will resonate with people because we’re not trying to be anything that we’re not into,” says art director Cale Mason, one of the partners behind this new Mount Hawthorn space as well as Beaufort Street’s Si Paradiso. “We all eat organic food, we all drink wine with no additives, we all listen to beautiful old music through nice sound systems, we all want to sit in a comfortable chair and be served by someone that cares about the neighbourhood. They’re just simple things, but they’re what the business will be built on.”
Sitting with Mason on a banquette in the former Violent Banks on Oxford Street are two of the “we” behind Casa: hospitality journeyman Alex Cuccovia (El Publico, Ace Pizza, Late Night Valentine) and Si Paradiso chef Paul Bentley, a local-boy-done-good who moved back to P-Town last year. Joining the Perth-based trio in the project is Enrico Tomelleri, a Sydney-based chef whose time at Italian institutions such as Fratelli Paradiso and 10 William Street will no doubt inform Casa’s direction.
Italy, if it wasn’t obvious, will be a major influence on Casa, (the name is the word for “home” in Italian and Spanish). The concept draws heavily from the all-day cafes and bars that dot the streets of Europe: establishments where, as Mason says, “you go for coffee at seven in the morning but can also come back to drink at midnight.” I don’t think management expect patrons to stay from dawn till close – though I doubt they’d dissuade anyone from doing so – but the space’s warm, lived-in aesthetic (dark timber and terrazzo tiling throughout, leadlight windows in the kitchen, ruffled Tyrolean walls) makes Casa somewhere you’d happily sit a while.
The other reason to stay is an all-day food offering from one of the city’s best chefs. Since joining the Si Paradiso team last year, Bentley has made a name for himself with his full-throttle Italianate cooking. (His lobster tramezzino sandwich has become something of a signature.) He’ll be bringing elements of Si to his new gig, certainly, but also touching on his Mexican cooking chops (Bentley owns restaurants throughout Mexico) and his classic French training (he started his career at Perth’s legendary Loose Box) while putting together the menu with Tomelleri. Best of all, because Casa’s 75-person capacity is significantly smaller than Si Paradiso’s, Bentley will have more time to focus on the food.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be more elaborate or that there’ll be flowers or tweezers involved, but it’ll give us the space and time to redefine what neighbourhood food should be,” he says. “You can come and have coffee, have something light for lunch, or you can stay and you can bang some epic bottles and have some really good food.”
In Bentley’s mind, good neighbourhood eating translates to house-baked pastries and sausage rolls for breakfast and during the day; filled focaccias for lunch; and pasta and larger share plates in the evening.
Wine looks set to be Casa’s other main draw, not just in terms of the wine range itself (the house policy for wines will follow the French definition of organically and biodynamically farmed wines, with nothing added or taken away – or, as Cuccovia says, “just grape juice, the original wine and not the chemistry wine”) but also through Casa’s careful attention to how it stores wine. Management have invested in nine wine fridges that will be held at four different temperatures to suit different wine styles. Wines will also be available on tap.
One final reason to start counting down the days to Casa’s official opening: a sweet, sweet sound system. The speakers are vintage Tannoy studio monitors which are powered by a vintage Yamaha amp previously owned by musician Billy Field. If you’re not familiar with Field’s name, you’ll likely be familiar with his oeuvre of work as a sound engineer. During his time as owner and manager of Sydney’s legendary Paradise Recording Studio, Field recorded albums by seminal Australian bands such as Cold Chisel, INXS, Icehouse and The Divinyls. Yes, the amp in question was in operation during these historic sessions. And yes, in Casa, it’s found a very appropriate home.
Casa (399 Oxford Street, Mount Hawthorn) is slated to open mid-September.