In Italy, a sagra is a local food festival. In Melbourne's Malvern, it's the name of an ambitious, four-level Italian food behemoth opening on Glenferrie Road in February and offering everything from rooftop cocktails to home-delivered meals.
Sagra is the brainchild of venture capitalist turned restaurateur Ross Chessari. The son of a Brunswick grocer, he seems to be revisiting his roots with this modern Italian food hub. "I've been working on this for a long time," says Chessari, who took more than three years to find the right property. "For me it's about being part of the community. I want locals to feel as though they can drop in any time for a bowl of pasta, or just a drink. They might also like to take something home for dinner."
In a former garage, the glam food emporium encompasses a restaurant, alimentare and enoteca on the ground level, function spaces and an art gallery on the mezzanine, and a bar with city views on top. A large basement space, complete with kitchens able to cater for 350 people at a time and equipped with blast chillers, is the Sagra engine room.
A share-friendly menu concocted by executive chef Leandro Panza (ex-Artusi) and food and beverage director Silvana Iacobaccio (ex-Ladro) includes pizza, handmade pasta, salads, grains, and braises. A separate menu of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables from the Josper grill kicks off in a month. Much of the menu can be ordered to go, and at the alimentare section at the back there'll be artisan prosciutto and salami, handmade pasta and sauces, and a range of take-home meals.
With everything on the wine list, a mix of Italian and Australian labels, available to take home and a bar menu that includes cocktails and a list of cicchetti and Italian-accented sliders, it seems that this particular Sagra is a festival with all the bases covered.
Sagra, open seven days from 6 February, 7.30am to late; 256-258 Glenferrie Rd, Malvern, Vic.
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