THE ESSENCE OF AN ITALIAN SUMMER
The spring/summer season is upon us, which means it’s time to settle in and enjoy the warmer weather with enticing cocktails and tapas-style snacks at Joe’s Bar and long lunches and sumptuous dinners at Agostinis inspired by the fresh flavours of Italy in summer.
Agostinis is the creation of siblings Dan and Dion Bisa and represents a natural expression of their lifelong passion for good, simple Italian food, the kind they grew up with. Designed by Kelly Ross, Agostinis brings the heart of Friuli Venezia in Italy’s north to the nation’s capital and welcomes guests in the Italian tradition of friends, family, laughter and great food.
Located in the trendy inner Canberra suburb of Kingston, the restaurant reflects the Bisas love of Italian food and culture, and is named in homage to their mother Marisa, whose family owned a small bar in Northern Italy bearing the family name of Agostinis, before migrating to Australia in the 1930’s.
Irrepressible Romano Chef Francesco Balestrieri leads the kitchen team where his menu is a celebration of simple authenticity, prepared to perfection. Pasta is freshly made to order in house and Agostinis pizzas are created in the open kitchen using the freshest ingredients and a special Neapolitan artisan technique where the pizza dough naturally rises for 72 hours before going into the state-of-the-art rotating Marana Forni pizza oven. Imported from Verona, Italy, it is the only one of its kind in Canberra and is capable of cooking15 perfect pizzas at one time.
The current menu is inspired by the traditional cuisine of northern Italy, with dishes such as Agostinis Antipasto Originale – fennel & chilli salami, San Daniele prosciutto, bresaola, Montasio, roasted vegetable caponata & sourdough; Frico – based on Marisa Bisa’s own recipe, this is a typical dish from the Friuli region of Italy, with paper thin layers of Montasio cheese & potato, oven roasted to form a heavenly, crunchy, chewy morsel; Lasagne ali Ragu – Italian lasagne with slow cooked pork shoulder, sandwiched between hand-made pasta sheets and topped with grated Reggiano parmigiano; and Pancia di Maiale – melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked pork belly with pureéd pumpkin, roasted fennel, hazelnuts & radish.
Groups can enjoy the one-meter long Mama Mia pizza with a selection of three toppings. It is recommended to reserve space for ‘Dolci’ with treats such as the Semifreddo al Pistacchio- heavenly pistachio semifreddo served with berry gel, strawberries & candied pistacchio or the always popular Agostinis’ Tiramisu – made to order with savoiardi biscuits, freshly brewed coffee, marscapone mousse.
During the recent northern summer, Chef Francesco accompanied owner Dion Bisa on a gastronomic tour of Italy, gathering inspiration for the new season’s menu and enjoying the authentic ingredients and dishes of his native country. Together they visited the fresh produce markets of Rome, frequented the secret little pizza joint in Venice favoured by the local gondoliers, and visited Gianni Brunelli’s Brunello vineyard in Tuscany, the source of one of Agostinis’ favourite wines.
They sampled Tuscan wild boar prosciutto, Roman porcini mushrooms and soft summer truffles, fabulous fresh Venetian seafood and dark cereal flour tagliatelle in Bologna. So taken was Francesco with this pasta that he is currently making it from scratch at Agostinis, the only restaurant in Canberra where guests can experience it.
Chef Francesco’s new additions to the menu at Agostinis are inspired by his recent Italian odyssey and pay homage to the time-honoured simplicity of Italian cooking, using fresh, light ingredients, beautifully prepared using traditional methods. A combination of melt in the mouth slow cooking, light and breezy pasta and memorable desserts usher in the warmer months, whilst enjoying a beautiful wine and great company.
Examples of Dishes
Carpaccio di Manzo
Inspired by the famous dish created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, super thinly sliced Tasmanian eye fillet is rolled with pink pepper and served with jalapeno, radish and roquette, providing a superb frisson between the meltingly tender beef and the spicy crunch of its accompaniment.
Pappardelle al Ragu d’Agnello
This dish combines lamb shoulder slow cooked in a white wine sauce for 12 hours with daily house-made pappardelle. Typical of spring fare from the Tuscan region, this light and flavourful dish is a classic.
Gnocchi con Ricotta
By using lemon-infused ricotta gnocchi instead of traditional potato, this dish is lighter in taste and consistency, making it the perfect spring dish. Served with fresh peas, asparagus and lightly salted ricotta, the gnocchi is house made daily.
Pancia di Maiale
Inspired by the roast pork of Bologna, locally sourced pork belly is slow cooked for 10 hours and served with a deliciously crispy skin, pumpkin purée and roast fennel, providing classic sweetness and crunch and a simple, strong balance of flavour.
Semifreddo al Pistacchio
This spectacular dessert is a tribute to the Bronte pistacchio, considered the best in the world. A soft, semi-frozen pistacchio ice cream is served with raspberry purée, fresh berries and candied pistacchios.
Torta al Caramello
Luxuriously decadent and not too sweet, slightly burnt caramel toffee is combined with a dark chocolate ganache on a short crust pastry base and served with crumbled Amaretto biscuit
The carefully curated wine list at Agostinis has been designed not to overwhelm, but to provide the best Italian wine experience possible with a balanced array of varietals from all over Italy, alongside a few Australian favourites. Agostinis also offers 100% Italian made wines on tap.
Interior designer Kelly Ross, has created a tableau where every object within the space is customized or custom made, with a backstory that ties back to the central narrative of the life of Marisa Bisa; all whilst providing a delicious backdrop and stage for business travellers, families and friends to see, be seen and enjoy the unique atmosphere. By creating something in between a gallery and a modern theatre experience in the restaurant, Ross maintains a delicate balance between past and present; history coupled with modernity, celebration and surprise.
Ross’ designs revolve around a ‘heart’; a sample of fabric, tile or treasure that communicates the essence of the space and for Agostinis it was a series of botanical prints and a fine leopard print from Kingdom Home, represented by Sydney based fabric studio Emily Ziz, which line the banquettes throughout the space. The vibrant patterns speak clearly of Marisa’s contemporary Australian life whilst the dolomite, limestone and tile refer back to her Italian origins.
The materials used in the restaurant have been lifted from and inspired by the geologically complex region of Friuli Venezia, the Agostini family homeland in northern Italy, which is known as limestone, dolomite and marble country. The limestone marble counter that runs the length of the open kitchen is veined with dolomite, whilst the copper light installations hanging above the entrance from the hotel lobby are complete with dolomite counterweights.
Agostinis Al Fresco
Through the bar and a billowing blush curtain, Agostinis outdoor terrace is festooned with lights and macramé hung greenery and offers a beautiful al fresco setting, perfect for relaxing in one of the Andreholm Paris Café chairs and enjoying a Negroni or Spritz from the extensive aperitivo menu or a glass of Italian wine followed by a deliciously light Italian meal during the warmer days and evenings. The terrace is licensed to hold 50 people for cocktails and canapés or 30 for dinner and can be privately booked.
Joe’s Bar is a curious meeting place to enjoy the curated wine list or enjoy a classic or more adventurous pre-dinner drink from an enviable cocktail list. Joe’s has a selection of over 20 varieties of gin, both international and local, with a comprehensive list of bespoke G&T’s that highlight regional botanicals – the perfect refreshing cocktail during the warmer months. Alongside this is a collection of classic Italian aperitifs and cocktails and a bespoke Negroni list that instantly transports guests to a sun-drenched Tuscan terrace. Joe’s barrel-aged, small batch Negroni’s are created in-house from a variety of select ingredients before being patiently left to come of age.
To whet the pre-dinner appetite, Joe’s presents the ‘Art of the Aperitivi’, Italian tapas-style antipasto plates designed to snack on and accompany a glass of vino, aperitif or refreshing beer.
A small bar with a big vision, Joe’s Bar is designed by Kelly Ross with big, bold statement details that draw the eye, creating a sense of time and place that is akin to architectural storytelling. A concrete curtain seems perfectly at home in the intimate space.
As the sun goes down, guests can sit at tables outside and enjoy the buzz or relax in the hotel lobby space and enjoy Joe’s attentive table service.
Joe’s Bar presents the Art of the Aperitivi – an excellent selection of Italian tapas-style snacks to whet the appetite whilst enjoying a cocktail or two.
Learn more about Agostinis and Joe’s Bar at: https://easthotel.com.au/eat-and-drink/
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