Pentolina, 2/377 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9606 0642
The place, the space, the back story, the food and the company …
Consider The Sauce’s supremely enjoyable visit to Pentolina evokes many memories.
For starters, so to speak, I recall imbibing a bowl of pasta at the same address many years ago – about 20, I think.
That, too, was a specialist pasta house.
These days, under the guidance of husband-and-wife team Matt and Julia Picone, old-school pasta is still very much the go, though the place certainly looks very different.
It’s classy and stylish, without being overbearingly so.
Matt was a barista at Pellegrini’s for the best part of two decades, and it is that sort spirit and vibe they are trying to foster at Pentolina.
Justin is my CTS companion for this adventure.
We figure out rough timelines that strongly suggest that not only had we both enjoyed several – and maybe many – coffees made by Matt, but that we were also quite possibly sitting side by side while doing so on occasion.
Are we happy to be here as guests?
(Full disclosure below.)
Taking up pews at the window bench – good for watching the passing parade outside and for the taking of photographs – we are happy, too, to leave our leisurely lunch in the hands of the staff in the form of the $60 a head “feed me” menu.
We start with cured swordfish, fennel, grapefruit and pomegranate ($21) and …
… beef carpaccio with truffle cream and parmesan ($19).
There’s little for me to say about these – except that they are wonderful, simple, fresh and prepared with superb ingredients.
And they’re just the sort of thing we feel like.
We discover that we both have something of an aversion to the oft-leaden arancini.
So we love these smaller cousins – Alessandra’s suppli (rice croquettes) with saffron and grana padano ($9).
They’re light and fluffy and beautifully fried.
Then it’s on to the pasta – all house-made.
Squid ink spaghetti with vongole ($28) is lovely, though the simple sauce of white wine and garlic (I think) is quite dry.
Matt’s spaghetti bolognese (ragu with beef, eggplant, zucchini, vermouth, $21) is good, too, though I think – nostalgic for the lusty gusto of the Pelligrini’s version – we both find it muted in both texture and flavour.
In that regard, the simple, righteous rigatoni amatriciana ($23) of pancetta, napoli, fresh chili and olives is a dead-set bullseye – and the pasta hit of the day.
The pasta, however, is just a tad too al dente for my tastes.
But let’s not quibble – this is ace.
Cannoli with ricotta, citrus and raisin ($3 each) are light and champions of their kind, with quite an unusual flavour and very crusty casings.
Justin confesses to not being much of a fan of panna cotta.
But even he is impressed by the Pentolina version with fresh berries ($13).
I love it to bits – so delicious.
I’ll use Justin’s pithy message to me later in the day as a summation: “Ripper lunch and ripper company!”
To which I’ll add: “Ripper place!”
(Consider The Sauce dined at Pentolina as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We enjoyed a range of dishes chosen by the staff as part of the $60pp “Feed Me” deal. Pentolina management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)