Review: Pentolina - Fresh Pasta & Bar
Pentolina is only a few months old. Sitting at the side of a laneway off Collins Street (enter via Collins Lane), from the outside it could be just another Italian hopeful starting up in the centre of the banking sector. Until, that is, you walk through the door.
Eyeing the long pink marble bar with stools that curve along one side of a light-filled room, the simple clusters of tables and bare, slightly distressed concrete walls dressed by single plain lamps give a ghostly hint that you've experienced this friendly but focused ambience somewhere else. Then it hits you - Pelligrini's! Hardly surprising since owner Matt Picone spent 19 years at Pelligrini's, working front of house and making the coffee that made the restaurant famous.
But Pentolina is very much Matt's creation, and it's about fabulous food. While he had regular patrons up on Bourke Street who ambled in and were prompted by Matt to 'leave it to me' as to what their evening meal would consist of, what he didn't get much chance to show off was his mastery of Puglian cuisine, and that's what will draw the crowds here.
Just as the Pelligrini family brought Italian food to Melbourne, so did the Picones in Sydney. Trained from childhood by his chef father and, using the small saucepans - hence the namesake Pentolina - to learn of taste and texture, choice and timing, Matt has brought his remarkable family's food heritage to his own restaurant and mixed it with some additional touches he learned in a long career.
Puglia is the breadbasket of Italy, and its cuisine is all about richness and flavour. At Pentolina you'll find an expansive menu full of all that, with some added touches such as egg-free pasta, which Matt says helps to emphasise the flavours.
This is otherwise traditional Italian that begs to be savoured with good company. Although Matt's menu and busy servers who know their stuff easily cater for lunchtime office workers, we were happily able to take our time. As the little sign in the window says, 'facciamo la scarpetta'. Yep, use that fluffy and crusty bread to mop up those amazing sauces.
If you would love chef to take you on a tour of everything delicious, the Feed Me menu comes at $60 a head, which should help you afford a bottle of chianti that's as rich and satisfying as the food that keeps arriving on your table at just the right time. You will be asked if you want something specific, if you have any dietary requirements of if you feel you just need to be surprised. Gluten-free and vegetarian options don't dispense with flavour.
We had chargrilled octopus, an antipasto plate, scallops in the shell, spaghetti with clams, insalata caprese, melt in your mouth gnocchi bolognese, fettucine carbonara, all finished off by cannoli with chocolate dotted ricotta, and a tira misu we're still sighing about.
Pentolina is open through the day and evening (closed Sundays) and with its small bites and entrees on offer to absorb the cocktails, it's bound to become an after-work haven.
It's worth taking a look at the pictures clustered on one side wall that illustrate Matt's rich food family heritage. And if you're lucky enough to get him talking, you'll soon realise you're in the company of a man who takes a great deal of joy from talking about the brilliant food of Puglia, about his relationship with food and how proud he is to be part of his family and their humble beginnings. With his knowledge and experience, he could write a bestseller.
Review by Lynda | October 2018
❊Venue | Location ❊
Pentolina - Fresh Pasta & Bar [show]
⊜ 2, 377 Little Collins St Melbourne | Map
✆ 03 9606 0642
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→ Reviewer | Lynda Spilsted
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