Some Italians say there’s no such thing as Italian food – there’s only Sicilian, Roman or Ligurian food. Andrea Riva is one of those Italians, and his restaurant, Osteria Riva, is one of the few in Sydney which accurately represents one of Italy’s regional cuisines – the food of Emilia-Romagna.
The north-east region, along with Naples and Sicily, is widely considered to have some of Italy’s best produce. All good meals from the region start with its finest products – cured meats and cheese.
With prosciutto di Parma, mortadella from Bologna, stracchino (a soft, creamy cheese), formaggio di fossa (a pungent cheese aged underground), honey and onion jam, Osteria Riva’s antipasti plate is a fulfilling degustation in itself.
Along with produce, the region is famous for its fresh pasta. Riva makes it daily, plus almost everything else on the menu. The handmade piadinas (a regional flat bread) are traditionally firm, and Riva’s focaccias are pillowy and crunchy edged.
The restaurant is small, with less than 20 tables huddling in a thick hallway-like space adorned with regional knick-knacks and one of those ubiquitous Italian specials-touting blackboards.
Riva’s two business partners, Giancarlo Bazzocchi and Ketty Laffi (Rosso Pomodoro) maintain an enviable 100-strong wine list, most of which is imported directly from Italy. Sticking to the restaurant’s theme and Riva’s roots, the list is dominated by Emilia-Romagna and its nearby regions.