Nino Zoccali says Italian food, as a single concept, doesn’t exist. Sure, you can get spaghetti with tomato sauce in every city, but otherwise, each region is radically different from the next. Sydney’s restaurant scene hasn’t always reflected that, but the Pendolino owner is doing his best to contribute to the availability of regional cuisine. Pendolino’s sister restaurant La Rosa relaunches today as an eatery dedicated entirely to Roman food.
“We go to Rome every year to research pizza and try the new wine vintages. We were spending so much time in Rome it was a natural evolution,” says Zoccali, who is joined in the project by sommelier Cristian Casarin and head chef Pablo Tordesillas Garcia, (formerly at The Resident and Ortiga), who works alongside Joseph Giuffre. “It's great, we're in a period where we're really starting to celebrate these differences,” says Zoccali about La Rosa and other Sydney restaurants doing regional cooking.
Compared to other regions, Roman food is like the mid-way cuisine: not quite as buttery and heavy as the northern fare, but not as crisp and simple as what they do closer to the boot heel, Zoccali explains. Famous Roman dishes are stinging-nettle spaghetti; lardo and zucchini flower pizza; cacio e pepe (simply butter, pepper, cheese and pasta); saltimbocca; and, most famously, porchetta. You can find all of these on the menu at La Rosa.
The porchetta is the main attraction. It’s literally wheeled out on a silver platter and so advertised to diners. It represents the new addition to the kitchen – a Roman-style volcanic-rock grill. La Rosa is using it to make Zoccali’s godfather’s smoked black-pig sausage, his family farm’s British white beef sirloin, Suffolk lamb ribs and spatchcock alla diavola.
While it hasn’t had a complete overhaul like the menu, the wine list has also taken on some flavour from around the capital. “We've never had a wine producer from Lazio. We’re exclusively importing two award-winning wines from the region. It’s a bit of a frontier region in high-end wine now,” says Zoccali.
The rest of the restaurant will remain the same; there are still old-school white linens, red curtains and dark carpets. The only new addition comes in the form of a bespoke joinery piece at the front entrance. “It’s a modern interpretation of a Roman column,” Zoccali says.
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