IT’S fascinating the way different waves of migration have influenced Australia’s eating habits. Food historians often credit the post Second World War influx of migrants from southern Europe as introducing the biggest change. But chop suey came long before pizzas in almost every city and town in the country and Hobart still has a few Chinese leftovers from those days. Subsequently, pizza reigned supreme. Thirty years ago, Hobart’s first and only Indian restaurant lasted but a few months. Then Gur Petab’s in Battery Point hung on for a few years before, in a sign of the times, becoming Ristorante Da Angelo, still one of the best and most popular Italians in town.
However, as pizzas today have gone mainstream and gourmet, Indian has made a comeback and we seem to be eating as many naans and vindaloos as we do focaccia and margheritas.
Plus Orizuru and Vanidols are both into their third decade of trading and, as migration continues to bring with it new culinary influences, if you count the number of Asian eateries generally, from the cheap and cheerfuls up to Me Wah’s sophisticated and refined Cantonese, it would appear that pan- Asian flavours are challenging Italian for top spot in Hobart’s popular palate.
But, if current American and British experiences are any guide, our next major culinary trend could be due, not to migration, but to a cook book.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s and Sami Tamimi’s book Jerusalem, for which former Hobart chef Sarah Stephens cooked and styled all the photographed dishes, has proved a publishing phenomenon in both countries, setting blockbuster sales records, spawning dedicated cooking clubs, parties and blogs and, of course, leading many chefs to introduce the book’s exciting and vividly spiced amalgam of Jewish and Palestinian flavours to their menus. Will it happen here? Such were my musings as I finished an excellent dinner with those most Italian of Italian numbers a delicious tiramisu and a good, strong coffee at Amici.
Business partners Brooke Tsakirakis and Luigi Sorgi opened Amici in March 2012. Both have been in hospitality all their lives – Brooke started waitressing at Sydney’s famed Doyles Restaurant when she was 21 before finishing as business development manager at the Grand Chancellor, while Luigi started a hot dog stand in Moonah when he was 15 and subsequently dropped accountancy studies for cooking.
Was it their long experience, I asked, that accounted for their success on a corner in North Hobart that had seen a long string of previous failured eateries? “What we’ve learnt,” said Luigi, “is that whatever you do in this game, you have to do well”. And that’s precisely what they do at Amici. Their garlic bread is the crispest, most flavoursome since that at the old Concetta’s; the pizzas are as good as the best in town; an osso bucco was beautifully flavoured and came with that essential lifting and richness- cutting sprinkle of gremolata; the service was smiley and spot- on; they’ve built a retractable pergola in the lovely back garden for all- weather al fresco and group dining; the pasta is very good and their Masala- soaked tiramisu even better.
It’s all top notch in fact, and very busy, and I regret not having visited and eaten there earlier and more often.
And, talking of Italian and North Hobart, it saddens me to report that Piccolo has closed with a sign on the door saying they’ll reopen in Spring with a new venture.
Entrees $ 12 to $ 15; patsa, pizza and mains $ 15 to $ 34; desserts $ 8 to $ 11; BYO corkage $ 5.
FULL PLATE: Amici owners Brooke Tsakirakis, left, and Luigi Sorgi with chef Shane Roockley.
Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE