Called Alberto Lounge, the retro eatery has moved into Berta's old pad, and naturally, he's done a little renovating.
Celebrating the shades of the 70s — brown, brown and brown — the venue has been given a groovy new fit-out, which includes teak shelving, chocolate-coloured carpet and buff stucco walls hung with framed poster art. Design crimes they may be, but somehow the space manages to feel warm, funky and fun.
While the decor may be unashamedly old school, don't expect to find foil-wrapped garlic bread on the menu or curly parsley garnishes on your spag bol.
Leading the charge on the food front is the gran maestro himself, Dan Pepperell (Restaurant Hubert, 10 William Street, Attica), who has created an Italo-Australian menu that takes classic cookery and makes it cool again.
Focusing on Roman cuisine with plates designed to share, the lineup includes crudo di tonno ($24), rose pink tuna cubes tossed with green olive jelly in a rich, umami emulsion and red pepper strips; and white anchovies doused in a vibrant tomato acqua pazza ($22).
There may not be pizza on the menu, but there is fresh pasta, from a bucatini all'amatriciana ($26) loaded with crispy guanciale lardons in a glossy red sauce, to a creamy cheese and pepper gnocchi ($26) made with light and fluffy pillows. Do as the Romans do and order a serve of the delightfully springy pane e olio to mop up the juices. At $6 a slice, it's worth every cent of the outrageous cost.
Admittedly, serving sizes are small so you may want to beef up your order. Might we suggest the bistecca alla Fiorentina ($95), an impressive T-bone steak smouldered over apple wood, or the swordfish con sardines ($38), smattered with currants, pine nuts, and sweet, sweated onions.
By now, you probably don't want the meal to end, and nor does it have to. Desserts include a milky dome of macadamia panna cotta ($14) that arrives jiggling and jiving to the music, as well as the house-made gelato ($12 for two scoops) and Sicilian-style cannoli ($8) pumped with fresh whipped ricotta and candied peel.
Forget watery table wine, Alberto takes its vino seriously, as you can probably guess from the wine menu-slash-manuscript, which has been painstakingly arranged by colour and weight. The list also includes a bright yellow section in the middle for nebbiolo, simply because "nebbiolo is awesome" explains our waiter. He's not wrong, Alberto's nebbiolo is awesome. As is its food, hell, even its decor. Alberto is certainly one hip joint.
Images: Kitti Gould.