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. The Bistecca alla Fiorentina, for 2-3 people to share, is the house specialty – weighing in at 1kg, this Tuscan superstar is a classic aged T-Bone prepared simply with salt and rosemary, grilled to medium rare and left to sit and contemplate before being served with parmesan shoe string fries, salsa verde & truffle butter. Then there are the bianca or rossa pizzas, created by the specially trained ‘pizzaiolo’s’, which are prepared in the traditional Roman style with fewer ingredients working in absolute harmony on the light and airy base. 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.
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. Venetian cultural and aesthetic cues are constantly interwoven into the design of the space with the metaphorical characteristics of elements such as fine Murano glass weaving their way through the visual narrative, with results that are simultaneously raw and refined. Joe’s Bar is an immersive experience that creates curiosity – a desire to sit, order a drink and explore the details. A quirky rope installation, an unforgettable bright pinot-hued pink wall and low hanging lights make you look twice, absorbing the constant contradictions between soft and hard, old and new. The rich colour palette for the space is drawn from wine, with qualities of clarity, brilliance, tone and depth.
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.