Looking to the past often helps shape the future, and the guys behind 1889 Enoteca have renovated the fit-out to best show-off the old Moreton Rubber building in Woolloongabba. Like stepping into the heart of old-time Europe, Enoteca offers traditional Roman fare with a wine list to die for and an interior to match. Before the trio of owners opened the restaurant five years ago, they peeled back the damage of time (also known as the '70s and pure neglect) to reveal original raw bricks, long-lost stained glass windows, and the original wooden floorboards.
In a case of old meets new but doesn't lose its roots, it is evident that there is passion behind the food, and even more so behind the wine. 'Enoteca' translates as 'wine library', and wine can be seen everywhere – from the hundreds of empty bottles making up the decor to the full ones ready for drinking. Evidence is everywhere of good times past, and good times to be had. The list that reads like novel — so if you're a novice, leave it to the experts. Owner Cameron was more than willing to make suggestions and the staff are just as competent on the range of organic, biodynamic and natural wines.
Seating in the main upstairs dining consists of dark wood booths with large mirrors above and fuchsia velvet patterned benches. Opposite them is the long and dominating marble bar with hanging lights and the air of old-time luxury. In the adjacent room or 'wine shop' are free-standing tables, and downstairs is the cellar and private dining hall. A large wooden table seats groups and the space hosts up to 42.
We started the meal with the Affettati misti ($15.50pp), Rome's answer to the charcuterie board. Enoteca only uses the finest produce, such as the beautiful salami featured from down in Byron. They followed up with a strong contender – Vitello tonnato con ($25), a delicious plate of thinly sliced rare veal, with a tuna mayonnaise, salty olives and zucchini. This hard-to-beat favourite was a highlight, that was before we tucked into fried zucchini flowers ($20) stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies.
People roam from far and wide just for the famous gnocchi ($24/36) at Enoteca. Not-to-be-missed, the potato morsels are as soft as clouds, a delightful cheesy bite with pork & fennel sausage and a black truffle tapenade. When the plate we were sharing emptied, hopeful looks shot to the kitchen for another serve. Until next time...