Michael Harden gives us a rundown on the menu at Tipo 00's new "not pasta" sibling. Surprisingly, his recommendations include a few killer pastas.
Australia's favourite pasta bar, Tipo 00, may be spinning its new sibling and next-door neighbour as "not pasta", but a couple of the best entries on the first Osteria Ilaria menu seem to have missed the brief. They're also among the dishes that, in the interests of making the most of a visit to this impressively polished newcomer, should not be ignored.
Nettle gnocchi with blue cheese and roasted almonds.
Take the nettle gnocchi tossed with blue cheese and chopped roasted almonds. It's a cracker of a dish, the saltiness coming mostly from the cheese, the dumplings an ideal sticky-smooth texture and the almonds bringing the crunch. You'd be pretty happy with it on its own, but it also makes a brilliant side, especially when teamed with Ilaria's roast corn-fed duck. Pink breast with crisp skin, juicy confit leg, grilled radicchio and toasted hazelnuts, it's a dish - and a combination - that will have you feeling less troubled about the not-pasta stance.
Or you could just have more pasta from the not-pasta menu. The other not-to-be-missed dish on this score is the paccheri (a giant Neapolitan macaroni) tossed with prawns, tomato and sorrel sauces and a superb prawn oil. It's finished with fresh sorrel leaves and may be a contender for Melbourne's Most Swoon-worthy Newcomer.
Baby octopus with 'nduja sauce.
More dishes to consider on your maiden Ilaria voyage: a rich, densely textured pork liver sausage, made in-house and served with a beautifully sweet-acidic rhubarb sauce and a rich, dark brown, seasonally appropriate pine nut crumble. Instagram-ready baby octopus, flattened out, grilled until the edges of the tentacles are slightly charred and served on a thrillingly good 'nduja sauce. Charred corn and cime di rapa served on a corn purée mixed with a classic cacio e pepe sauce. A delicately refreshing sheep yoghurt semifreddo simply accompanied by crushed pistachio nuts and orange zest.
Osteria Ilaria is one of the best and most accomplished openings in Melbourne this year, brought to you by a team of truly talented professionals. Eat pasta, don't eat pasta, whatever. Just eat here.
Osteria Ilaria, 367 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9642 2287, osteriailaria.com. Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-10.30pm, Sat 4pm-10.30pm.