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Jane Faulkner reviews Rosetta
In 2006 Neil Perry opened Rockpool Bar & Grill to great acclaim, four years later his Asian-inspired Spice Temple and the uber-cool bar The Waiting Room followed. So for his third foray into the Melbourne restaurant scene had to be something completely different. A few weeks ago, Rosetta, his paean to all things Italian, opened. It’s a beautiful space.
Apparently Australian designer Iain Halliday of BKH was inspired by Venice’s famous eateries the likes of Hotel Cipriani and Harry’s Bar. The result here is sheer opulence with its layers of Italian marble, domed ceilings out of which hang enormous Murano glass chandeliers and the burnt-toffee coloured velvet banquettes are as much about comfort as aesthetics. From the mahogany parquetry walls hang black and white photographs of famous Italians from Pavarotti, Sophia Loren to the more idiosyncratic such as Sylvester Stallone aka Rocky and Berlusconi. I love this main room that seats 100 with its uncluttered tables, snap pressed white linen but outside, the 80-seat alfresco terrace is also reminiscent of the Grand Canal. Thankfully a still-expanding hedge blocks out most of the riff-raff although Crown’s gas brigades – the great balls of fire that plume up at night, will still frazzle some diners.
There’s also a private room to the side and a bar area in the centre of the dining room. Rosetta caters to everyone.
A couple of quibbles that need to be addressed: the largely Italian wine list both from Australian-grown varietals and Italy is excellent except the staff need a much deeper grounding and understanding of them. The wines served to me by the glass were either oxidised or cork-tainted. They are no-nos. And the beautiful music mostly of Italian arias is way too loud; it’s as if I had a front-row seat at La Scala. The room is theatrical but the music needs to complement rather than dominate. And maybe it’s a chick’s thing but when the toilet seat lid is up, it hides the buttons.
However, overall, Rosetta is fabulous. While Perry is still overseeing his latest incarnation in the kitchen and dining room, Brendan Sheldrick, who has worked with the maestro since 2004, has taken up the challenge as head chef. It’s a great menu
The menu is an enticing mix of Italy’s famous dishes all stamped with Perry’s signature freshness and appeal for example the house-made tangy and creamy ricotta is served with an intensely flavoured cooked and peeled whole tomato. Also in the antipasti selection ($16-$35) fried squid and zucchini – all sliced thinly, crumbed and salted, perfect with the 2010 Torre dei Beati pecorino (yes a white grape variety) at $14 a glass.
The pasta ($19 to $65) is made fresh daily and I’ve had garganelli twice now. It’s a square of pasta rolled into a tube and at Rosetta is mixed with squid, bottarga (a salty special mullet roe from Sardinia) tomato and chilli. Perfect lunch. Yet a real highlight is the Piedmontese speciality, agnolotti alla Plin – the small parcels of agnolotti are filled with a moist mix of rabbit, veal and pork. Of course that needs a glass of barolo and at Rosetta there’s one by the glass – Mauro Molino 2008 at $24. Bargain.
Second courses include fish of the day and meat ($31-$69) some of which are cooked in the wood fired oven. Eventually I’ll order a main course. At the moment, I’m still working my way through, and enjoying, the antipasti and pasta. Oh and I need to come back for dessert, too. I’ve been told the chocolate torrone $21 is exceptional.
Rosetta is at Riverside at Crown Whiteman Street, next to Rockpool Bar & Grill bookings 8648 1999. Open lunch 12-3pm Tues-Sun; dinner from 6pm daily.