When I think back to my early days in Sydney, say 1993, I often walked past a relatively new restaurant (with the most amazing view over the skyline) just up the road from where I lived in Potts Point. It was only early days but who would have thought that this place, Mezzaluna, would still be going strong after such a long time? I remember it being talk-of-the-town and until recently, I never made it through the front door.
One of the current owners, Angelo Italiani, was born in Abruzzo on the Adriatic side of the Italian “boot” so it was no wonder he and his partner Aldo Bertoli invited Formula One driver Jarno Trulli to their restaurant before he headed off to Melbourne for the Grand Prix. Jarno doesn’t just race cars; he owns a vineyard in Abruzzo, also his place of birth, a vineyard that produces 26 different wines.
The entire restaurant was booked out in honour of the Formula One driver and recently appointed head chef Fabio Pappagallo created the six-course degustation with matched wines from Jarno’s vineyards.
The food of the night was a definite step away from the traditional and it seems the young chef has a lot to say through his modern approach on Italian cooking. Once seated we recieved a canapé plate scattered with an eclectic mix of samplers. The bundle of prosciutto filled with ricotta, olives and leek was an absolute bundle of joy for me. We’d already tried these as they were handed around the restaurant on arrival and the creamy and tender bite they gave made it an instant favourite.
The yellow fin tuna with goat’s cheese, cucumber, celery and green apple jelly was a nice combo and the very firm panna cotta with parmigiano reggiano topped with green pea jelly had similarities with its approach. One thing that came as a surprise to a few people was the pineapple and chilli soup with fromage frais foam. Served cold, it was more like an avant-garde drink you’d have at a cocktail bar. Personally I found it quite refreshing with its nudge of fruit and spice and the squiggle of white cheese mellowed the flavours a tad. This soup with a shot of vodka would be perfect!
The dessert-like baby pear poached in cognac and blackcurrent with zabaglione cream had me a little puzzled as I was almost convinced it was a fig. Delicious without a doubt but I wonder how many others thought the same as me?
We’re told that the meat in the next dish won’t be found anywhere else in Australia. Pearl meat tartar marinated in cumquat juice, served with pomegranate seed aspic and a pink grapefruit and green chilli sorbet. While I’m not convinced that this is the only place that serves pearl meat (ask a few of Perths top chefs) but one thing for sure is that it’s not all that common here as it mainly gets exported to Asia. Served ceviche-style, our entrée is wading in the melted sorbet and is very light in general flavour and a little heavy on the pomegranate arils. The slight bitterness of the seeds took away from the pearl meat.
Our other entrée of poached turkey with ginger mayonnaise & limoncello sauce was a simple and somewhat confusing pairing of flavours. The use of ginger really threw my taste buds.
The grilled venison noisette was a sensation. Perfectly cooked and velvety rare, it came propped-up against sweet potato layered with leek and chestnuts. It was just the type of Italian dish I was hankering for and matching Jarno Rosso was my favourite of all the wines of the night. Just beautiful.
A trio of fabulous cheeses winds us down after our modern Italian journey with a sharp gorgonzola with yellow peach jam, pecorino with chestnut honey and soft taleggio with pâté and nuts. All of them are winners, especially the gorgonzola.
To round up the night we get a dessert plate of chocolate mousse, various traditional biscuits and Bacio and for those that were game (hand goes up) a shot of Jarno Grappa. I really didn’t need the grappa but I reckon it helped me brave the wet weather outside.
hnf dined courtesy of Mezzaluna