Ben Atkinson, chef-owner of the recently shuttered Meat Candy, can’t wait for Perth to meet La Motta Continental. He can’t wait to show us the new look of his William Street restaurant, more contemporary neighbourhood bistro-slash-trattoria and less 60s milk bar. He can’t wait to play around with La Motta’s new wood-fired oven, sort of like the one he worked with during his stint at ACE Pizza. But most of all, he can’t wait to get back on the tools and start cooking for guests.
“I’m really excited to get in the kitchen,” says Atkinson as we chat in the restaurant’s in-conversion dining room. Next door in the kitchen, tradies are putting the final touches on the aforementioned oven. “’I just want to get in there and get going. It’s mega exciting to be cooking the new menu. I loved the chicken, but I’m also looking forward to being able to be a little more creative.”
Named after La Motts Butcher – a circa 1950s butcher shop that once operated at this Northbridge street corner – La Motta Continental salutes Northbridge’s rich continental European history: the coffee shops, the delis, the corner stores, the Greek, Italian and broadly Mediterranean food ways. Although there’s some Italian blood on his father’s side, Atkinson stresses authenticity isn’t part of La Motta’s game plan.
“We’re not going super traditional, but pulling on European ideas and following the spice trade,” he says. “We want La Motta to have that neighbourhood vibe. It’s a place we want people to come in after work and have a cocktail or glass of wine and hang out outside, but there’ll be options there if they want to make a night of it, too.”
While our man is excited about his new wood-burning toy, La Motta isn’t, exclusively, a wood-oven restaurant (nor will it, he insists, serve pizza). Instead, the oven will be used to coax maximum flavour out of anchovies, sardine, veg and meat: black angus steak that might be teamed with a salsa verde, perhaps. There’ll be pasta too with fregola – a Sardinian pasta comparable to Israeli couscous – and smoked mussels set to feature on the opening menu of small and larger share plates. For Atkinson, it's a chance to revisit the flavours he was working with while at Cantina 663 and Don Morison and Rosanna Luca's Beaufort Street European fine diner, Veritas.
Lazarus Studios, the same crew behind the look of Meat Candy, has been tasked with bringing La Motta to life. The space is darker but the on-table lighting more dramatic. A sprawling marble benchtop, planters and bench seating have been installed in the subtly-tweaked alfresco area (goodbye pavers, hello polished aggregate concrete).
While La Motta will only serve dinner initially, breakfast and lunch are on the cards for the end of summer: expect house-baked pastries in the AM and handmade pasta and gutsy veal cotoletta sandwiches at midday.
La Motta Continental opens on Thursday December 6.
La Motta Continental
465 William Street, Perth