Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Valentino, Osteria di Russo e Russo, Shady Palms Café & Bar, and Ace Pizza.
The subtitle of Riccardo Momesso's new restaurant Valentino (his first venture post-Sarti) is 'A Calabrian Kitchen' and so there's plenty of chilli in the mix here. There's 'nduja (Calabria's fiery spreadable salami) on charred and chewy-crusted pizza, not to mention the house-made chilli in oil on all the tables that adds heat to dishes such as wilted wild weeds, marinated whole sardines, stuffed and crumbed baby artichokes or chickpea pasta with crab and zucchini. Add some great aperitvi, impressive salumi and olives preserved by Momesso's mum, Lucia, and you'll emerge feeling like a Calabrese. Valentino, 517 Malvern Rd, Hawksburn, Vic, (03) 9826 8815. MICHAEL HARDEN
SYDNEY Osteria di Russo e Russo Oh Enmore Road, what's got into you? Barely a week goes by without a new café or bar swinging open its doors, and now on the slightly more serious food front hospitality favourite Hartsyard has been joined by this ambitious boho bolthole. The tchotchke-rich décor is classic inner west, but the food shoots to thrill. Chef Jason Saxby won the Josephine Pignolet award when he worked at Quay, counts Pilu and The Bridge Room on his CV, and has made good on his young-chef-to-watch promise with a modern, Italianish menu that puts wagyu bresaola, pickles and a bagna cauda-inspired sauce alongside a gutsy gnocchetti Sardi number that mingles the little pasta nubbins with a potent duck ragù, mushrooms and smoked onions. Va bene. Osteria di Russo & Russo, 158 Enmore Rd, Enmore, NSW, (02) 8068 5202. PAT NOURSE
BRISBANE Shady Palms Café & Bar The name and menu make a nod towards the Americas but poke your head into this rambling old Queenslander and you'll find it's all about Brisbane and our love of big flavours. Buttery house-made brioche buns crammed with an addictive free-ranging mix of pulled pork, eggplant and kimchi mayo are a good reason to visit. Likewise the Texan fried pickles with ranch dressing - and I'll be going back for those shredded beef po' boys too. Sharing the same owners as nearby Lady Marmalade Café, this new eatery-drinkery has plenty of heart and while the counter service deal may not suit everyone, there'll be no complaints about the keen prices or craft-leaning drinks list. Shady Palms Café & Bar, 427 Logan Rd, Greenslopes, Qld, (07) 3324 2917. FIONA DONNELLY
From the crew that gave Beaufort Street's Cantina 663 and El Público comes this rollicking ode to NYC pizza parlours and red-sauce frivolity (cue Americano cocktails on tap and an Italian-accented liquor cabinet). While the crisp wood-fired pizze are worthy of its headliner status, support acts like gelatinous pig's head torchons and Caesar-style salads crunchified with fried chicken skin deliver similar dining thrills. Sign off with a clever doughnut filled with tiramisù cream and start plotting your return visit pronto. Ace Pizza, 448 Beaufort St, Highgate, WA, 0499 448 000. MAX VEENHUYZEN
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