Mauro Forgillo talks about food with a passion that approaches religious zeal. His eyes widen happily as he describes the organic lemons used in his sorbet (“They are so good”), and how he tends the sourdough starter that forms the base of many dishes at his newly opened Italian eatery, House Bar & Bistrot.
The young chef is animated, talking with his hands and, occasionally, props. There’s the bread starter, for example, which he cradles in the crook of his arm like a baby. Most bakers use a viscous starter with a high-ratio of flour to water, but Forgillo’s is a solid package the size of a football, wrapped snugly in a checked green tea towel.
“When you keep the starter liquid, it grows crazily and the gluten fibres get torn apart,” he says. “If you train it to work in a closed, tight environment, the sourdough learns to play in a controlled space, and the gluten fibres stay intact.”
The resulting bread is chewy, delicious and used across the menu – from the tapas, to the pizza and the canederli – a comforting Northern Italian bread dumpling Forgillo ate as a child.
Forgillo, who has worked at Fratelli Fresh and within the Merivale Group, changes the menu regularly as produce comes in and out of season, and everything at House is sourced from producers, most of them organic. “Producers always give you their best, while suppliers always give you their last stock,” he says.
Right now pumpkin is in season and it’s roasted dark and caramelised for the pizza. “Each slice is individually topped with ingredients like pork belly and parmesan, and we build them up tall,” he says.
Tender lamb backstrap, cooked sous-vide and pan-fried to medium, is also on the menu. It’s served with eggplant caviar (an eggplant purée) and a stack of steamed Tuscan cabbage, which at House is as ubiquitous as the sourdough.
Although Forgillo doesn’t want to serve “expected” Italian dishes, such as bolognaise and carbonara, his pork ragu-filled ravioli, and the pork belly, duck egg and parmesan tagliatelle, are a nod to those well-loved dishes.
The wine list is succinct, showcasing a small range of Australian and Italian producers, and everything is available by the glass. “As much as it’s elegant to have a bible for a wine list, most people look at the sommelier and say, ‘I want a white or red, fruity or dry.’ I like to make it a bit simpler.”
House Bar & Bistrot is in a double-fronted terrace on pretty Kellett Street. There’s the dining room and a bar area that will eventually host live music. Just as he works solo in the kitchen, Forgillo did the design and most of the build on his own.
“It’s a challenge to keep up being in the kitchen by myself and doing the business, but this [opportunity] was a train that would have never passed by again,” he says. “I’ve worked in big kitchens and this is the opposite. It’s a small place, and I feel like it’s finally right for me.”
House Bar & Bistrot
62–64 Kellett Street, Potts Point
0450 633 892
Tue to Thu 12pm–3pm, 6pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–3pm, 6pm to late
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