Cultura Espresso Bar & Restaurant

Licensed $   Hat icon
123 Liverpool Street, Hobart CBD
03) 6234 7111
Open: Breakfast and lunch Mon to Sat; Dinner Fri and Sat.

Sergio Simonetti, for a long time the owner of Don Camillo, said to me years ago that only Italians can cook Italian. Look around at Da Angelos, Solo Pasta, Cucini and others of our favourite Italians and what he says would appear to be true. But, like most sweeping generalisations, there are exceptions.

Alex Jovanovic at Piccolo is one exception. But, he’s simply an exceptional chef by any measure.

At lunch at Cultura a few weeks ago, I thought I’d found another, Cultura’s Head Chef, Jay Marsh. However, it was his day off and we were in the hands of John Molina, recently down from his years in the kitchen at Mud Bar in Launceston. And he’s an Aussie with Spanish roots.

Our waitress was Aussie/Uruguayan, the waiter Australian/Scottish/Yugoslav and Spiro on the coffee machine is Greek. So I don’t know where that little multicultural round up leaves Simonetti’s claim, except that the owner is Luca Rocchia, his Italian heritage no doubt accounting for the buzz and wonderful warm hospitality of the place. And the great desserts made by his mother. And the old photos decorating the walls, mainly of his father as a young man back in his village and of his late maternal grandfather stepping off the boat in Melbourne in the 1950s and subsequently – as did so many other Italian new-arrivals – while working on the Hydro.

And the food? Italian all the way, and, with only one exception, very good Italian at that.

The exception was a margherita pizza where the well-intentioned use of sliced fresh tomatoes at this time of the year really didn’t do the job. It was one of those cases where fresh is not always best and, until fully ripe tomatoes are around again, I felt they’d be much better off using Italian tinned tomatoes or home-made passata.

Apart from that, our lunch was excellent – a beautifully smooth and flavoured cauliflower, gorgonzola and truffle (oil) soup; a beef carpaccio, classically served simply with good olive oil, shaved pecorino, a grind of pepper and a few rocket leaves; a delicious baby beetroot and goat cheese salad; perfectly dressed fettuccini aglio olio; and the best spaghetti puttanesca I’ve had in a long time. Rounded out with a Chianti, good coffee and Luca’s mother’s lovely tiramisu.

So, Italian chef or not, judging by how busy they were at Saturday lunch, it’s obviously a very popular addition to the CBD cafe/restaurant scene. And deservedly so.

Antipasti around $14.00; pizzas, pastas and mains $19.00-$26.00. www.culturahobart.com.au

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