Pasi Petänen said no more pop-ups. Then Giorgio De Maria called.
Taking over Mecca coffee's HQ in Sydney's Alexandria, the pair are doing things a little differently. Instead of matching wines to each dish as per tradition, Petänen's weekly five-course set menu will be based around the flavours found in a selection of natural Italian wines under De Maria's own import label, Giorgio's Fun Wines.
"We're not going to plan too much ahead," says Petänen. "We want it to be as spontaneous as we can be."
They have a working outline, though: each Tuesday, De Maria will walk Petänen through the tasting notes of the wines he's chosen. Early the next morning, they'll seek out similar flavours at Sydney's Flemington Markets to create dishes that carry those same characteristics before opening on Thursday night.
"The dishes will be inspired by Giorgio," says Petänen. "It'll be spontaneous, sweet and sour, maybe a little bit salty as well. And Italian-influenced, just since he's super-Italian. But it'll be a little bit of him, a little bit of me."
While technically cheating, Petänen and De Maria have one course pre-planned: agnolotti del Plin, dumplings filled with rabbit and cabbage from De Maria's childhood but made with Petänen's own rye sourdough recipe. To match the acidity and rich buttery sauce, De Maria will pour either a pear cider from Tasmanian brewery Two Metres Tall, or a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from Italy's Collio Goriziano wine region. Maybe both.
As he looks for a permanent space, Petänen is breaking a self-imposed pop-up ban after spending last year bouncing between Sydney kitchens, including Yellow, Acme and Clayton Wells' auto.lab. But he couldn't resist De Maria's call.
"The only reason I'm doing this is Giorgio," says Petänen. "He's bigger than life, and just so positive and energetic that you can't say no when he gets so excited."
The pop-up's name is as much a nod to their love for fine food as it is to their respect for one another's work. De Maria counts himself among the biggest fans of Café Paci's roasted cabbage with pomelo and cavolo nero, while as a self-professed "dumb wine drinker", Petänen admires De Maria's enthusiasm and sharp pairing abilities.
Suitably, That's Amore is an intimate affair: while the café seats 60, the plan is to stagger the sittings in groups of 15. Candlelit tables not confirmed.
That's Amore at Mecca Alexandria, 26 Bourke Rd, Alexandria, NSW; Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2-25 March. $75, plus wines (pairings by the glass and bottle). Bookings essential: email firstname.lastname@example.org.