A new kid on the block in North Adelaide, L’Italy is not simply another Italian restaurant – their menu is as conscientious as it is delicious.
This isn’t a bad gig to have – I get to see the world, meet loads of interesting people and eat so much (too much?) fabulous food. But, while I get invited to scores of restaurant openings, menus launches and ‘influencer’ events, I tend not to go to that many. After all, I don’t ever (never, ever) review restaurants on this food blog, so I figure that the businesses doing the inviting might be better off spending their hard earned cash on someone who will.
However, every now and then an invitation will pique my curiosity, so I’ll drag my self out of my comfort zone, swap my uggies for actual shoes, put on some lipstick, and drive down the hill.
Such was the case when I was asked if I’d care to check out one of the newest Italian food offerings in Adelaide, L’Italy on O’Connell Street. While I wondered how much room there is for another Italian restaurant in town, I’d heard interesting things about the ethos of chef Joe Carey (ex the award-winning Brae Restaurant in Victoria), and his commitment to minimising waste in his kitchen.
As soon as I began chatting with Joe, it became instantly obvious that this is a man who is serious about his craft. Joe is happy to talk about his food and I suspect that it’s a topic that takes up much of his available brain space. His menu is one of the most thoughtful I’ve seen for a while and is as carefully crafted as the dishes on it.
Joe sources his meat conscientiously, favouring hand-reared pork and beef from the Barossa Valley’s Michael Wohlstadt at The Dairyman, then commits to the whole beast. Many diners don’t really understand what this means and blithely nod and smile at talk of breaking down an animal, but this is no mean feat. It takes strength, skill, space and much thought. A cow is a big beast, so a significant amount of planning must go into what is to be done with every, single, precious bit of it – especially the storage of all the constituent parts and careful consideration of how each of these, no matter how humble, is subsequently to appear on plates.
But Joe doesn’t let the protein hog all his time and thought. We enjoyed a dish of silky, sweet red capsicum that melted in our mouths and left me wondering how he had achieved such a texture without a hint of telltale charring from oven baking it. As it turned out, he had cooked a tray of whole capsicums under a heavily salted pie crust, thus steaming them in their own juices to achieve the desired silkiness, and seasoning them perfectly at the same time.
His attention to detail and commitment to reducing any wastage is unconditionally evident in the back of house. Storage shelves in the staff area groan with jars of fermenting produce. Several jars of something unidentifiable caught my eye and, on enquiring, he informed me they were the hard cores from Brussels sprouts. He was pickling them, intending to crumb them, deep fry and serve them as nibbles in the future.
Special fridges hold meat which is hung and aged in house, cured legs of pork and house-made sausage are suspended in another cold room area, jars of fermenting kefir line a sink and his years-old sourdough starter from which all the house-made bread is created burps happily in a corner. (Some of it also now lives in my own fridge, after I mentioned that I’d carelessly killed my own starter – and the bread it makes is divine!)
With a menu selection that includes things like rolled pigs head with charred radicchio, King
George whiting served with soured milk and bitter leaves, salt crusted potatoes with turnip cream and fermented onions and crispy pigs ears agrodolce, it’s clear to me that there’s plenty of room for another Italian restaurant. I think about food a lot – and I appreciate it when whoever is behind the stoves does too.
Lambs’ Ears dined as a guest of L’Italy.