Rosa Mitchell's heart might belong to Sicily, but the self-taught chef and slow-food pioneer has expanded the brief with her second restaurant. Rosa's Canteen, which opens today in Melbourne's legal precinct, takes its inspiration from across Italy with a menu that includes everything from fresh pasta and home-grown tomatoes to suckling pig to order.
"I've always done Sicilian food, but I love northern Italian dishes as well," Mitchell says. "This'll be the sort of place where people can drop in for a drink and a snack, or stay longer for a meal. We're open for lunch and dinner, but we also have the grill on during the afternoon if people get hungry."
Rosa's Canteen is Mitchell's second venture with business partners Peter Bartholomew and David Mackintosh (the other being Rosa's Kitchen in Punch Lane, at the eastern end of the CBD).
The 60-seat restaurant, a modern space with walls of windows taking in views of the Supreme Court dome and across to the massive terrace shared by MoVida Aqui and Paco's Tacos, has been designed by HA Architects and includes terrazzo and timber floors and a long terrazzo bar.
Some daily specials are dictated by the vegetable garden at Mitchell's farm in Yandoit, just north of Daylesford, and a market garden owned by her aunt.
"We have heaps of late tomatoes this year, so we'll be using them, along with some lovely eggplant," she says. "We don't have antipasto like we do at Rosa's Kitchen, but we'll have loads to snack on, like salumi plates, carpaccio, grilled prawns and semolina-coated fried calamari."
There's also agnolotti with three-cheese filling, lamb and pea ragù, pot-roasted squab and, for bigger groups that book ahead, whole suckling pig or legs of goat.
Rosa will split working days between the two restaurants, handing the reins at Rosa's Canteen to her young lieutenant Braedan Cleave (formerly of Coda, Rosetta and Spice Temple Melbourne).
Rosa's Canteen, 500 Bourke St (entrance at rear), Melbourne, Vic