There are no sharks in bondage kit. But there is something very Damien Hirst about the salumi (that’s Italian for cured meat) counter. It’s about chopped-up (and cured) bits of animal in a display case. Perhaps it is the backdrop of the curtain drawn across one of the five tiled dining areas in Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons that makes it look that way.
The last time I saw something similar was a cow at the now closed Saatchi Gallery on London’s Southbank. And there was the display case chic at Quo Vadis, a short lived Hirst partnership with Marco Pierre White.
If you haven’t heard about this joint you should. It’s from the Maurice Terzini camp, he who started Caffé e Cucina before moving on to (not neccessarily in correct order), Il Bacaro, Melbourne Wine Room, Otto, Icebergs and that other little tratt in Bondi.
Chef Robert Marchetti is having the salumi cured to his specifications in Lismore in northern New South Wales. It is very good and very tasty. For $12 you get five of the thinnest slices of prosciutto cut on the special hand operated slicer, one that transports the meat across the blade rather than the other way around.
We arrived at around 11.30pm and the kitchen was not serving from the main menu. At one point it looked like we were to be turned away but manager Ari Vlassopoulos, who I met when I scoped out the restaurant pre-opening, recognised me.
What we could order was hardly slumming it. Baccala Fritto – salt cod balls, crab sandwiches (too rich for the Martini Monster who has a flabby pancreas), three year old Rocco Reggiano.
What I really like is the wines served by the carafe from $16 to $22 for a half litre which is brilliant at a time when it is difficult to find anything to drink at under $40 in other joints of this quality.
There are no tablecloths and the knives, forks and condements are stacked in stainless steel bins on the tables.
The room itself is divided into five, each faced with a slightly different hand-made tile of Sicily. Outside the same effect is used for a long narrow smoking area which has the feel of a Neopolitan bus station. What the Roman designers, Lazzarini Pickering Architetti, have done is clever. I didn’t think they would pull it off with the tiles without making it look like the inside of a men’s lavatory. But they did.
At this point the Martini Monster launches into Entourage. Our Ari (I think) is in earshot as she discusses the other Ari (played by Jeremy Piven), the usual expletives and specifically cunt (I can’t believe I didn’t ** that out) muscle. I’m not sure we got away with it.
But it probably doesn’t matter because with it’s hard edges I’d imagine nobody would be able to hear us on a normal night.
I’m not a natural fan of the casino, but the presence of its new batch of high end restaurants including Rockpool and Nobu is growing on me. I like Terzini’s new millenium Roman tratt. And I like the styling of the waiters in their white coats (apart from mangement who wear black) and Converse trainers.
And I guess like with Damien Hirst styling is the key word. This is a designer place that sits on the reputation of Terzini. For now the prices look like excellent value with pasta dishes in the low $20 range. I want to go back for more but the fact that you can’t book a table may stop me. But I’ll try while the prices stay low.
For tomorrow though I have a table booked at Bistro Guillaume. Sure, I try and live on the edge with the Martini Monster. But I do like some certainty.
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Jack beat me to blog GAS.