“When life gives you lemons, make limoncello!” is the cheesy, vacation-ready motto at Casa, the Boathouse Group’s new casual Italian pop-up in Palm Beach.
The breezy eatery is taking over the former Boathouse homewares store just back from the sand at Barrenjoey Beach. Head in for an Italian breakfast, lunch or dinner – all summer long.
The concept for Casa is “just good fun” executive chef James Brownrigg tells Broadsheet. “We were trying to figure out what to do with [the space] next.” So, naturally, Brownrigg headed to Italy on a “fact-finding mission”. Spending a few weeks eating along the Amalfi Coast, he arrived home inspired to evoke that same relaxed, approachable oceanside atmosphere.
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Casa’s food menu – served at lunch and dinner – is dedicated to antipasto and pizza, plus a few sides and a trio of desserts. All dishes arrive on the Boathouse’s bold, fruity plates (staying true to the venue’s origins, if you fall in love with a piece you can buy it for home). A simple breakfast is on from 7am till 11am, with Single O coffee, fruit, paninis and avo on toast.
The snapper carpaccio is the antipasto dish winning the most fans so far. Atop a plate bordered by white and red slices of apple, layers of the raw fish come swimming in a grated ox-heart tomato salad and lemon oil. “Snapper is extremely delicate in flavour, which is why it pairs with such a simple garnish,” says Brownrigg. As often as possible, the fish comes from local waters.
Those hitting Casa after a long surf session might instead go for the chilli-laced calamari fritti, or the arancini al formaggio. “It’s a really big, cheesy arancini, filled with mozzarella, scamorza [a stretchy, smoky cheese], gorgonzola and parmesan,” Brownrigg says.
There’s a tight list of seven pizzas. Expect classics, like margherita, napoli and a quattro formaggio that mirrors the curds in the arancini. A porchetta pizza is proving to be the most popular. Fine slices of the house-roasted pork join radicchio’s bitterness and fresh rosemary.
Every dish on the menu has a soulmate among the cocktails. For light snacks, like the snapper carpaccio, Brownrigg recommends the Limoncello Spritz, a classic summery combo of limoncello, prosecco, soda and lemon. Fried bites go better with the Mandarin Lemon Drop, the zesty sip that’s “like a vodka Martini over ice” with the refreshing addition of mandarin juice. The pizzas love the red wine-inspired Bacio Estivo, where Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin and red-wine syrup are paired with Campari and Cointreau.
On hot days and balmy evenings, the place to be is Casa’s white timber veranda. Salty air and shade during the day, rainbow strings of fairy lights at night. Inside is just as nice: shuttered windows open to the outside world, high ceilings and an abundance of potted plants. Splashes of red – in gingham tablecloths, vintage posters and, of course, a Vespa – add a brightness not often seen in the pared-back fit-outs of the group’s other venues (like the just-opened Boathouse in Rushcutters Bay).
“It’s a drop-in, come-as-you-are feel,” says Brownrigg. “It’s been really fun to put together – to energise the space and evolve it into something new.”
1 Beach Road, Palm Beach
Thu to Sun 7am–11am, 11am–10pm