It’s relaxed, playful and a celebration of Dan and Dion Bisa’s ‘Italian life’. I’m talking about Agostinis, the latest addition to the food and wine scene at the award-winning East Hotel.
This is the realisation of a dream for the Bisa siblings, who created Agostinis around their international dining experiences, their love of Italian food and all it represents, and their adorable and inspirational mum, Marisa—the matriarch of the family.
Chef Franceso (Frankie) Balestrieri, who always seems to be grinning from ear to ear, has created a menu that is simple, honest and not expensive given that virtually everything is made in-house—pasta, sauces, marinades, ice cream and even fairy floss.
The antipasti line-up is absolutely delish and will get your taste buds yelling ‘bellisimo’.
The calamari is soaked in buttermilk before being lightly fried and it truly melts in the mouth. So too does the cured beef, which is sliced ever so thinly (it’s almost transparent) and served with textural elements such as crispy parmigiano and roasted hazelnuts. It’s a divine combination.
One of my absolute faves from the ‘primi piatti’ section, is the intriguing square-cut spaghetti (all pastas are served beautifully al dente). Frankie says this is a ‘true Sicilian delicacy with the taste of the Mediterranean Sea’, and he’s not exaggerating. The dish is created with love, by combining salty cured fish roe, garlic (what’s an Italian dish without garlic?), chilli, lemon and fresh parsley. Simply superb.
Another fave is the oh-so-classic, peasant-style spaghetti. It’s created with three elements—tomatoes that pack-a-punch with flavour, garlic and aromatic basil. That’s all it takes for an Italian masterpiece.
And, I highly recommend sharing the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, the most succulent t-bone I’ve had in yonks. Again, simple is best, says Frankie. The beef is prepared solely with salt and rosemary, grilled to medium rare and left to do what a fabulous cut of meat should always do, and that’s rest. The roast potatoes are to die-for and I wonder over and over why I can’t cook potatoes like that.
Pizza fans will quickly fall in love with Agostinis. The state-of-the-art, rotating Marana Fornit pizza oven is a marvellous beast that can cook 15 pizzas at a time, in a record 4 minutes. All pizzas are created with a thin crust, made in a special way by Frankie and his team so the dough doesn’t weigh heavily on the tummy. At the top of the list is the famous Margherita, always a winner in my books.
Desserts include a mini chocolate ricotta cannoli with delightful fairy floss, made on a special machine daily. It’s fun to watch the floss being made. Speaking of watching, you can sit at the bar and dine if you’d like. It’s mesmerising seeing the Agostinis’ kitchen team in full swing.
Agostinis has put as much love and attention into its wine list as it has its food. Several 100 per cent Italian-made wines are on tap and Bryan Martin (Ravensworth Wines, Murrumbateman) has been called in to work with the team, including on Beppo’s Blend. Agostinis uses the TAP. System, so wine quality is never compromised.
The décor at Agostinis deserves a whopper of a story in its own right. The attention to detail is unbelievable. Designed by Kelly Ross, who also designed Joe’s Bar at East Hotel, the décor is a perfect pairing of past and present. Ultra-modern neon pink signs mix comfortably with elements that harken back to Marisa’s Italian origins. The colour scheme is intriguing. The tiles are beautiful. The striking feature wall, by graphic designer James Manning, which forms the centrepiece of the restaurant, is loaded with memory and worth studying. Everything has meaning, including the 800 metres of distressed rope, cut to lengths and hung on dowel rods to represent home-made pasta hung to dry in the sun.
Agostinis. East Hotel. Open 7 days. 69 Canberra Avenue. 6178 0048.