RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that any restaurant established and operated under the auspices of renowned chef Neil Perry has an enviable pedigree to begin with. However while it’s more or less a given that each restaurant will share similar high standards of service and have a strong emphasis on sourcing premium produce, at the same time each also has its own very distinct identity, focus and flavour. Rosetta Ristorante is Neil Perry’s Italian flagship, and flies that flag proudly and to great effect, right down to the house made ricotta and also the pasta produced by hand onsite by their pasta specialists, including a venerable Italian grandmother who is every bit as authentic as the pasta she creates.
Located on the waterfront promenade beside the Yarra River, Rosetta offers both inside dining and also the opportunity to dine on a heated terrace with views over the river, along with the option of a private dining room. The immediate impression on entering is one of understated elegance, with chandeliers, paintings and black and white photographs on the wall, and high quality, well-spaced seating ensuring a comfortable dining experience. Restaurant manager Madeleine Morgan oversees a team of highly capable staff who are attentive and informative, both with regard to the dining menu and also the extensive wine list.
The menu itself is equally extensive, and likely to appeal to a broad swathe of diners, be they in search of purely Italian dishes, or wishing to enjoy a course from the woodfired oven or charcoal grill. Almost mandatory as a selection from the Antipasti menu is the Ricotta Fresca, creamy house made ricotta with marinated capsicum, anchovy, garlic and capers—irrefutable proof that simple premium ingredients are often the surest recipe for success. Similarly, charcoal grilled prawns (Gamberi) served with orange gremolata and lardo are a picture of simplicity on the plate, but prove to be delicious succulent morsels, redolent of their time on the smoky grill. Other smaller dishes may include meatballs oven baked in piquant tomato sauce, veal tongue with tuna mayonnaise and anchovy toast, charcoal grilled squid with extra virgin olive oil, chilli and lemon, or perhaps beef carne cruda with chilli pecorino and cured egg yolk.
Choosing a main course from those on offer is a delightfully challenging process, with whole fish and fowl available from the wood fired oven, a wide array of pasta and risotto, fresh meat and seafood from the charcoal grill, a range of Italian favourites and even (with 24 hours notice) the option of a roasted whole goat’s shoulder from the wood fired oven. A lack of choice is very definitely not an issue at Rosetta. One popular pasta dish is the agnolotti with roast rabbit, veal and pork—although equally tempting are the gnocchi with braised lamb shanks and ricotta salata, and the tagliolini with spanner crab, garlic, chilli and parsley. Grilled duck breast with roasted blood plums, and Sicilian olive salsa arrives perfectly pink and is every bit as delectable as it looks, while Corner Inlet King George whiting from the grill is sourced by Rosetta’s regular fisherman, and the steaks on offer include a Cape Grim grass fed traditional (and enormous) Bistecca Fiorentina, best suited either to a couple, or a serious fan of excellent beef, with a very substantial appetite.
To finish there are some excellent Italian cheeses on the menu, however diners may well find it difficult to forgo desserts such as pistachio cannoli with cherry compote and olive oil cake, the frozen chocolate, peanut and coconut semi freddo, the tiramisu, and another simple, but subtly delicious dish—the buffalo yoghurt panna cotta with poached apricot amaretti crumble. Ultimately Rosetta is just as satisfying as their panna cotta, and their resulting popularity means that reservations are very definitely advisable.