Popina Kitchen, the Circular Quay joint venture between Israeli diner Shuk and Italian providore group Salt Meats Cheese, is no more. The site will be converted into the next Salt Meats Cheese venue by August, with Shuk leaving the partnership.

It will be the project of Tasmanian chef Massimo Mele, who is joining the restaurant group as co-owner and executive chef. “I’ve worked with the boys before on some of my own pop-ups,” says Mele of Salt Meats Cheese owners Stefano de Blasi and Edoardo Perlo. “It’s so exciting to be working on our first venue together.”

Over the next month before the full transformation in August, diners can expect to find new dishes such as gnocchi acqua pazza (a broth of boiled octopus with potatoes and celery), debuting alongside classic pizzas such as pork and fennel sausage with charred broccolini and fontina cheese.

Former Alpha head chef James Roberts will be running the kitchen, which will act as a kind of blueprint for the future direction of the group. “Once the food and culture are correct here we can start work on the other venues,” Mele says. “All the venues are quite different and this is about collaborating to create one offering across the group.

“When I first walked into Salt Meats Cheese they had so much wonderful produce. When people walk in to this new site I want them to see the chefs preparing the food, the beautiful smoked meats. We’re really going to showcase those wonderful products,” he says.

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