Cucina Povera Is Melbourne's Soon-to-Launch Italian Venue From Maurice Terzini and Joe Vargetto
It'll take over the former Massi site from next month, serving a contemporary take on Italian peasant food.
Months of lockdown might have spelled the end of productivity for many — but that sure doesn't seem to be the case for Melbourne chef-restaurateur Joe Vargetto (Mister Bianco, Massi) and good mate Maurice Terzini, aka the Sydney-based heavyweight behind Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and CicciaBella. The pair have kept busy working on their new joint venture, Cucina Povera Vino Vero, which is gearing up to launch in Melbourne's CBD in mid-November.
The project will see the site of Vargetto's existing venue Massi stripped back and reimagined as a cosy Italo-Aus diner that's a little bit punk and, as the name suggests, built on a simple 'less is more' approach to cooking. The vibe is inspired by the garages of suburban Melbourne and Sydney, with Terzini defining the style brief as: "Rick Owens makes passata".
"We want this juxtaposition of these beautiful old traditions that we respect and this really old Italian peasant food, but brought into a really high contemporary punk setting," The restaurateur explained to Concrete Playground. "We always say, traditions are beautiful but it's time we create our own."
With front-of-house led by Terzini's son Sylvester and Vargetto heading up the kitchen, Cucina Povera is set to champion simplicity from its food right through to its styling. A minimalist makeover by multi-disciplinary firm Latitude will see the 52-seat space transformed, with various tones of grey and heavy timber swapped out for a cleaner, more contemporary vision.
The equally simple menu is set to showcase a modern interpretation of Italian peasant food, while a short, sharp drinks offering will feature around eight wines sourced hyper-locally and served by the carafe. "Stuff that might not make the bottle, but makes the winemaker's table," explains Terzini.
Meanwhile, Romeo Lane's Joe Jones is working on developing a short crop of fun, reimagined classic cocktails, all designed to be quaffed alongside good food. And guiding the sonic side of things is long-time Terzini friend and collaborator Mike Simonetti, of techno label Pale Blue, tasked with creating a soundtrack that sums up the restaurant's vibe.
"We just want it to be really, really authentic in its approach to dining and to eating," says Terzini. "You don't have to be at the Icebergs all the time to have a great meal ... this one is no budgets, no forecasts — it's just a real gut feeling of this is just going to be really good, you know?"
Cucina Povera Vino Vero will open at 445 Little Collins St, Melbourne, from mid-November.
Published on October 11, 2021 by Libby Curran