Tinello isn’t your everyday Italian joint. It’s priced like one, it sort of looks like one (at least in its simplicity) but there’s a lot here you won’t find in many other Italian restaurants.
“It is Italian, that's the bottom line. But there's some extended Mediterranean influences going through it,” says Riccardo Roberti, the owner and chef (ex-Stellini Pasta Bar and Blackwater). He’s being a bit modest. The tweaks on the food may be subtle, barely noticeable on the menu but they’re clever and harmonious. “My girlfriend is Syrian (Tinello’s co-owner Natasha Battikha) and we've just had a boy who's half-Syrian, half-Italian. So, we're doing a bit of that here.”
Osso bucco-style veal shin is stewed with Syrian spices, wrapped in grape leaves and served with farro (a rice-shaped grain). Lamb and veal meatballs sit on a bed of Turkish-style charred eggplant puree; and olives are salt-cured and tossed with sugar, North African-style. A slight Chinese influence comes in the pan-roasted mulloway with trumpet mushrooms, radicchio and a ginger and sherry broth.
This is as much a wine bar as it is a restaurant. Booze enthusiasts will see a few surprises on that part of the menu too. The wines, all by the glass, mix older wineries using historic methods and newer, natural wine producers; and there are some lesser-known craft beers from around the country and Sierra Nevada pale ale from the US. A lot of this is thanks to ex-Marque and est. sommelier Dennis Roman, who helped Roberti put together the list.
Although nothing radical, the subtle differences are a nice, if accidental, homage to the building’s history. Long before Roberti moved in, this building on Glebe Point Road housed the famous Valhalla art-house cinema.
Partly due to his respect for the building’s heritage and partly because he was keen to get up and running quickly, Roberti has made minimal changes to space. There’s a marble bar with stools and at the other side a long glass facade keeps the simply furnished restaurant either well lit or good for people watching.