Os­te­ria Ilaria

It’s an Ital­ian Re­nais­sance on Lit­tle Bourke, and Ilaria is its Leonardo. By Larissa Dubecki

Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD AWARDS 2017 -

IT CAN’T HAVE been easy for Os­te­ria Ilaria, open­ing next door and be­neath the shadow of the pasta bar to rule them all, Tipo 00. The restau­rant equiv­a­lent of a younger Bald­win, it had to as­sert its own iden­tity when the older sib­ling fo­cused its gaze on nar­row range of carb-led in­ter­ests.

But then: ’nduja oc­to­pus. The dish of the year pretty much sums up Ilaria’s sub­tle, outof-the-box bril­liance. Its straight­for­ward way of reignit­ing jaded palates be­gins with the vi­su­als – flat­tened, black­ened, whole baby oc­to­pus is scat­tered like sexy road­kill over a flame-or­ange sauce made from that trendy spread­able salami, with col­lu­sion from an­chovies and olive oil. In the eat­ing, it’s all char ver­sus fire, chew ver­sus squish. Flavour to the max, and fully de­serv­ing to be on the menu forever­more.

See also: pac­cheri, thick pasta tubes strewn with nubs of Crys­tal Bay prawn meat, grounded in tomato and sor­rel purees and anointed with the heady cologne of prawn oil. An­other In­sta-clas­sic. Or the roasted corn-fed duck with crisply ren­dered fat and Marsala hazel­nut sauce cut with grilled radic­chio. Or the side dish with the mostest, the charry cime di rapa with sweet­corn and cheesy, black-pep­pery po­lenta. More of this, please.

There are 90 seats at Ilaria, twice the size of Tipo next door. They give am­ple op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss the dif­fer­ences between an os­te­ria, trat­to­ria, ris­torante and enoteca while graz­ing through a booze list that sums up ev­ery­thing great about not be­ing a tee­to­taller in Mel­bourne, circa 2017. The drinks folk are min­dread­ers. They’ll know be­fore you do that you re­ally want a Madeira with the tortelli cov­ered in an aged Parme­san ooze and a bliz­zard of black truf­fle, and a flinty Ver­mentino with the king prawns in a sweet, vis­cous driz­zle of Aperol and or­ange.

So sur­ren­der to the forces of hos­pi­tal­ity, get down with that oc­to­pus, and sub­mit to the tidal pull of our 2017 Restau­rant of the Year. ■ Ò367 Lit­tle Bourke St, Mel­bourne 3000. 03 9642 2287. os­te­ri­ailaria.com.

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