Cheese wheel food theatre gives Godi La Vita an eat-street edge in the heart of Hyde Park, right down to a retro dessert

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UPFRONT - WORDS DIANNE MATTSSON PIC­TURES SAM WUNDKE [email protected]

At Godi La Vita, the aroma of melt­ing cheese is worth its own menu item.

Cheese trag­ics alert: An im­mer­sion is hap­pen­ing in Hyde Park – Ital­ian style.

There aren’t too many more com­fort­ing sen­sa­tions than the whiff of toasty cheese, and at a ta­ble right next to the open kitchen at Godi La Vita, the aroma never gets old.

Chef Fed­erico Godi reg­u­larly acts out his sig­na­ture cheese wheel food theatre for an eclec­tic ar­ray of din­ers who keep up a con­vivial buzz that bounces about the casual space decked out with blond tim­bers and a cool mix of pen­dant lights.

As each cheese flambe show be­gins, camera-ready groups step up to the open kitchen and block our view, snap­ping the process where the chef douses a gi­ant parme­san or pecorino wheel with brandy, then sets it alight. But that cheesy waft keeps driv­ing our ap­petites, even though we’re tuck­ing into tra­di­tional steaks and roast duck.

Once the lick of blue flame in the wheel has dis­ap­peared, leav­ing a layer of bub­bling, melted cheese, chef swishes creamy pasta into the cav­ity, coat­ing the hand­made rib­bons and curls with a rich yel­low coat­ing.

Alas, mush­rooms make the parme­san fet­tuc­cine ver­sion look an un­ap­petis­ing grey, but it does smell good. Much pret­tier is the stroz­za­preti hand-rolled pasta tum­bled and flam­béed in the pecorino wheel, with pear, walnuts, cream, and a fi­nal pi­quant hint of bal­samic. Add Ital­ian sausage if you like.

On this highly com­pet­i­tive eat street, the cheesy flour­ish is a smart point of dif­fer­ence for the own­ers, Fed­erico and Lau­rie Godi, whose name is worked into their first restau­rant’s ti­tle, al­to­gether mean­ing “En­joy Life”. An­other as­set is the smart and jaunty young staff, who know their stuff.

The cheese-wheel cook­ing is re-en­acted from the chef’s fam­ily din­ner mem­o­ries grow­ing up in Florence. He also is one of a rare few in this city, mak­ing all the pasta, and ev­ery­thing else, down to the grissini, in house. As the evening ends he is at the openkitche­n bench work­ing a gi­ant ball of pasta dough.

The rest of his menu is built on Ital­ian clas­sics.

A mod seafood cock­tail of three plump char­grilled prawns, a flashback to the 1970s favourite, has a re­fined foamy cock­tail sauce that lends a more muted late hit of sweet­ness.

But, a thick slab of mixed meaty ter­rine is too fridge-cold to re­ally get a sense of the lay­ered and pressed flavours. Per­haps ask for a rested ver­sion of the gen­er­ous slice part­nered with a “gi­a­r­dinera” va­ri­ety of pickles, toasted sour­dough, port jelly and a de­li­cious onion jam.

In the mood for cheese, I opt for a scrape of raclette over bis­tecca tagli­ata for main. The beef, a steak sliced from the bone, is rare, pleas­antly fatty, the big flavour nicely cut by slightly tart salsa verde and rocket tucked un­der­neath.

The half-wheel of raclette has been bub­bling away and lightly toasting un­der a pur­pose-built cheese grill. As the chef’s knife sweeps across the top layer so it falls in soft folds on to my meat, the first im­pres­sion is that is seems like a pretty scant serve for the ex­tra $7. But, the soft and runny pud­dle, de­light­fully chewy at the edges is rich, so rich, and def­i­nitely enough.

It’s a good sign that our waiter must re­turn sev­eral times be­fore we can de­cide on desserts. We like the idea of them all, but the lib­eral plates so far mean this will have to be a shared course.

For us, the choco­late ravi­oli bit-of-fun spe­cial is a miss. The dark choc pil­lows are thick to stodgy rather than a lux­u­ri­ous match for the cen­tres of soft house­made stracchino cheese sweet­ened with caramelise­d orange, and topped with blue­ber­ries.

Much bet­ter is the cof­fee panna cotta, the colour of a strong latte, with silky wob­ble, white choc crumbs and sum­mer fruit mac­er­ated in port, the combo again lend­ing a flashback to decades-ago-style late-night cof­fee, cake and di­ges­tifs af­ter a night out.

A parme­san and pear coppa ge­lato would have been a pre­ferred re­fresh­ing twist, but it’s pop­u­lar, and has sold out. That’s one for next time.

Main pic­ture, Godi La Vita beef; top, the din­ing room; and, above, cof­fee panna cotta

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