Her latest venture, Rosa's Canteen, strays a little from her Punch Lane food mecca. Instead of sticking to the Sicilian side of things, her newest CBD restaurant sets out to explore the riches from the Italian mainland. But even though this is Rosa's Canteen (as opposed to Kitchen), her well-established, authentic Italian touch stays central to the menu.
Deciding to keep things as traditional as possible this evening, we started with beef carpaccio ($20), which was carved into the most delicate, yet flavoursome slices. We recommend savouring every sliver of beef while sipping on aperitivo cocktails: the Perativo is perfect for early evenings, with Aperol, Cocchi Americano Bianco and pear cider. For something with a little more kick, without being too strong, the Bicicletta is a winner, with Campari, white wine and soda.
It feels a little sacrilegious to visit an Italian restaurant without sampling at least one of their pasta dishes, so that's exactly what we did. The casarecce lamb ragout ($20) with peas, tasted like the real deal; the curly pasta had just enough al dente bounce to contrast against the fall-apart lamb. The tomatoes and peas did not detract from the main event of the lamb, but gave the dish heartiness and a nice familiarity.
On our visit, the fish of the day ($34) happened to be a fillet of snapper with tomatoes on a bed of polenta. The fish was moist and perfectly cooked, and complemented the slight acidity of the tomatoes. But it was the perfect polenta that stood out — creamy and rich, it's the stuff of dreams. We don't want to know how much butter went in to make it so heavenly, but at the same time, we're desperate to know so we can make it ourselves. This was our favourite dish of the evening. With both lamb and fish, wine was slightly difficult to place. We settled on a pinot noir from Six Acres in the Yarra Valley, which was light enough for the fish and red enough for the ragout. A very drinkable drop indeed.
Not wanting the evening to end just yet, we sampled the canoli for dessert. Here, they're filled with ricotta, marsala and honey, with each end dipped in crushed green pistachios ($5 each). The helpful staff suggested we pair it with a class of Pellegrino Marsala, a sweet fortified wine. If the canoli had been filled with a sweet custard — what many Australians are used to when it comes to canoli consumption — the marsala may have been a bit much, but thankfully this was not the case, and it complemented the ricotta-filled dessert perfectly.
An evening at Rosa's is relaxed affair, with food that has been both comforting and of a high quality. The staff were friendly and certainly helpful when it came to suggesting items — and with that winning combination, we'll certainly be back.