Patria Della Pasta

Licensed/BYO $-$$
16a Princes Street, Sandy Bay
03) 6224 3333
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm.

Italian, Indian, Indian again and now back to Italian – you could be forgiven for thinking the restaurant’s backstreet location was jinxed. Or, with such a chequered history and with so many excellent Italian eateries around town, including two of the best nearby, that it was a brave decision for Scott Allen to go Italian when he took on the restaurant last September. But Allen, who also owns the Mount Nelson Signal Station Brasserie, says that once he’d cleaned the kitchen extractor fans of curry remnants and aromas, the business has been going well and growing.

Les Kereama, ex Astor Grill, is the chef and he has put together a menu of mostly Italian classics but that’s much more flexible than usual with four different pastas plus three, differently flavoured fettuccine and with your choice of 10 different sauces all available as a single serve, a platter of two pastas or a platter of three pastas each. Then there’s a different gnocchi of the week, a different veal dish of the week and weekly variations of dishes of ravioli, tortellini, cannelloni and a special risotto of the week.

So, despite concise descriptions on the menu of the pasta shapes and different sauces, the small print as it were, the menu requires quite a deal of introduction and explanation by the floor staff of what the night’s various offerings are. And, unlike me, you need to read the small print.

On seeing a secondi of ‘osso bucco’ I decided that would do and was surprised when, instead of the classic veal marrow bones, what came was a dish of ox tail. Looking again at the menu ‘ox tail’ is clearly what the small print said. So, my fault, but why call it osso bucco when it ain’t? But the ox tail was nicely tender and the flavours of the dish, right down to the gremolata and the underlying pocket of soft polenta were enjoyable, as was an entrée of chicken livers and bacon with pappardelle tossed through a rich, sweetish brandy and cream sauce.

On the other hand, the flavours of the dish of squid ink fettuccine with chilli clams and pancetta – a so-called Patria favourite – was overwhelmed by a heavy and totally superfluous ‘rosella’ sauce when all that was needed for a dressing was a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a handful of chopped parsley, a dressing that would have highlighted the briny flavours of the squid ink and clams rather than smothering them.

And it’s that sort of simplicity that the Italians do so well and that non-Italian, more-is-better chefs so often in my experience fail to understand or get right.

In a similar manner, Dijon mustard and a squiggle of sweetish mayonnaise, were unusual accompaniments to a classic beef carpaccio as was the quick sear applied to the surface of the beef before slicing.

Many years ago, Sergio Simonetto, long-time owner of Don Camillo, claimed that only Italians could cook true Italian food.

Patria della Pasta is, perhaps, a case in point. But, bastardized classics aside, the cooking is fine, most will enjoy the flavours, the space is bright, as are the white linen table cloths and most of the eight white wines and seven reds on the list are well-priced Tasmanians.

Carpaccio $14.00, Chicken livers $15.50; Fettuccine and clams $24.00; Osso Bucco $32.00, Dolci $14.00

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