Restaurant News

A young gun Italian chef is hosting one-off diners at Marta, Agrarian Kitchen and Osteria Ilaria

It’s organised by the co-founder of Rootstock, so you know it’ll be good.

By Yvonne C Lam
Sarah Cicolini (Photo: Cultivar Agency)
Sydney's sommelier darling Giorgio De Maria is flying two of his Italian epicurean compatriots – one an acclaimed chef, the other a winemaker – over to Australia for a roving series of Roman-style dinners in February and March.
The stars of the tour, called Roman Holiday, are young gun Sarah Cicolini from Santo Palato in south-east Rome, and Gianmarco Antonuzi, a lawyer-turned-organic-winemaker, who with his wife Clémentine Bouvéron, runs organic winery Le Coste.
Joined by De Maria, the pair will be touring Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart with a series of collaborative feasts that celebrate Roman cuisine and minimal-intervention wines. The host venues include two of Australia's hottest mod-Italo restaurants – Marta in Sydney's Rushcutters Bay and Osteria Ilaria in Melbourne – as well as The Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania for good measure.
Sarah Cicolini shot to fame after opening her modern spin on a traditional Roman trattoria, Santo Palato, in the Italian capital in 2017. It's here she hones in on Roman classics – cacio e pepe, carbonara, Amatriciana – with one eye on tradition, and the other on how to move the cuisine forward. She might finish a lamb ragù with a grating of lemon zest, say, or swap out the meat in a lasagne for broccolo romanesco.
Sarah Cicolini's lasagne with romanesco
For the Roman Holiday tour, expect a menu flecked with "alla Romana" dishes: Sydney's dish of the moment, trippa alla Romana, the fried-cheese goodness of bocconcini di baccalà, and a rigatoni carbonara. Low-intervention wines from the Le Coste vineyard near Lake Bolsana will complement Cicolini's food.
When the tour stops in Tasmania, chefs Rodney Dunn and Luke Burgess will work with Cicolini to finalise the menu at the very last minute, basing it, in true Agrarian Kitchen style, on the very best local produce they can find.
Inside Osteria Ilaria (Photo: Julian Kingma)
Roman Holiday is the latest food-and-wine event series from De Maria's Fun Wines. De Maria, previously of 121BC and a founder of Rootstock, says that Cicolini and Antonuzi have long been admirers of each other's work. Despite living in the same city, he says it's ironic that it's taken a plane trip to Australia to facilitate their collaboration.
"I'm excited about putting together people who really respect each other for what they do. Sarah was inspired in her approach to cooking by Gianmarco's wines, and Gianmarco loves Sarah's food," says De Maria. "I'm excited about the idea of bringing something to Australia that is focused and authentic – which is something not even easy to find in Italy."
For the diners who manage to snag a booking, it's a chance to see this focus and authenticity on full show in sunny Australia.
Bookings for Roman Holiday are available at giorgiodemaria.com. Tickets are $75-$90 for a set menu, with wine and beverages charged on consumption.
Sydney: Sunday 24 February, dinner, Marta, 30 McLachlan Ave, Rushcutters Bay
New Norfolk, Tasmania: Friday 1 March, dinner, The Agrarian Kitchen 11a The Ave, New Norfolk
Melbourne: Sunday 3 March, lunch and dinner, Osteria Ilaria, 367 Little Bourke St, Melbourne