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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Dinner @ Osteria La Passione

Just before Christmas, Osteria La Passione opened in Richmond. The chef is Carmine Costantini who previously worked at the Tea Rooms of Yarck. This is an Italian eatery with a difference - there's no menu and you are basically offered whatever the chef has cooked up for that day - note that they will ask if you have any dietary conditions and cater accordingly.

There is a minimum of 6 courses for $75, though you can enjoy extra courses but it will naturally cost you more.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo

At the moment it is BYO as they await a liquor license.

The first dish which I didn't photograph was a piece of balsamic bread (bread made in house with balsamic vinegar) and cured olives. Still warm with a beautiful crust and a definite taste of balsamic, this first bite brought a knowing smile to our faces.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Octopus with Celery/Polpo con Sedano
Beautiful discs of perfectly cooked octopus as tender as it could ever be. The flavour of celery came through loud and strong, crisp and clean, an excellent foil to the rich olive oil dressing.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Melanzane Parmigiana/Eggplant Parmigiana
Two gorgeous cubes of eggplant parmigiana, served warm - quite a delicate presentation as the eggplant was finely sliced. Richly flavoured tomato sauce with fresh basil to cleanse.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Pepperonata/Roast Cauliflower/Fagioli della Nonna
Pepperonata is a slow cooked dish of peppers, tomato and onion and this was a fantastic version of it, alongside tender roasted cauliflower florets. The beans were toasted in a mix of garlic and olive oil.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
The bread does get replenished through the meal - I love the lined brown paper bag it comes in.

At this stage we were asked if we would like some more antipasto or if we'd like to continue onto pasta. We were enjoying ourselves so much we went for one more antipasto dish...

Capocollo, Pancetta, Salami, Culatello, Giardinera, Grilled Parmesan

And what a dish it was. All the cured meats except the Culatello were made in house. The Pancetta has to be tasted to be believed, it would easily be the finest specimen I've ever tasted. It wasn't just that the pork meat was so soft and the pork felt just melted in the heat of your mouth, it was the burst of freshest that came from the herbs that had been rolled through the meat that made you just stop.

From antipasto to the primo, pasta:

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Gnocchi with Pesto
I've very fussy when it comes to Gnocchi and if you grew up eating the gnocchi my mother can make it is justified. Though these gnocchi are larger in size than I would be used to, I could pretty much tell just by their appearance that they were going to be good - this was confirmed as soon as the tines of my fork entered one of them - no resistance at all. Taste in the mouth, pure potato - absolute bliss. We ate these very slowly so to enjoy every mouthful.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Tagliatelle con Ragu
We also got a second pasta dish to share - well flavoured, rich ragu. There was a lovely sweet backnote of browned butter to this dish.

From primo to secondo - the meat course

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Braised Goat with Fennel
Just the presentation of this dish makes us happy as it is so typically Italian. It is honest and simple - you have the meat, in this case wonderfully tender, slow cooked goat served with a little bit of fennel and some of the vegetables it had been braised with.

To go with it, the side dish or contorno

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Chicory with Garlic and Chilli
chicory sautéed with garlic and chilli.

One again we were asked if we'd like some more and we might have said no if we hadn't seen the pork going out to other tables.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Pork Shoulder on Cavolo Nero
We didn't need to order it but we couldn't resist. Tender pork served on sautéed cavolo nero served with its braising juices.

From secondo to dolce:

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
First up, a scoop of Tiramisu. It's unfortunate that Tiramisu has fallen out of favour with the foodinistas because when you get one as good as this, it reminds you just how delicious it really is.

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Carrot Cake with Eggplant Sauce
The first thing that strikes me is here is a carrot cake that actually looks like it has carrots in it, the next thing is that it is served with an eggplant sauce - surprisingly, it tastes delicious! This is the first dish of the night that isn't a traditional Italian dish, it's the chef's own invention, though the way it is served is very traditional.

To end the night, coffee of course!

Osteria La Passione© by Haalo
Coffee Face

There's so many things to love about this place. For us, it's as close to dining in Italy as you can get without being in Italy. Yes the dining rooms are small and the chairs are not very comfortable - it's not perfect but its imperfections are typically Italian - the service can be organised chaos. The dishes come when they come. If you're the type that expects an entrée, a main and a dessert, then you're probably not going to like it. Similarly if you need to be in control of what you eat, then this isn't the place for you. Enjoy the ride - enjoy the spirit of the place, enjoy the heart.

As a side note, we have been back again for dinner and it's been another lovely experience.

  The details:

  Osteria La Passione
  486 Bridge Road

  Phone: 9428 2558

  Dinner Only - Tuesday to Saturday

Osteria la Passione on Urbanspoon


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