• Itali.Co (Barkly Street, St Kilda)

Opened by Remo Nicolini (famous for establishing the inner-city pizzeria +39) and Lino Maglione (award winning pizza expert and traditionalist), Itali.Co is in the heart of Italy whilst on the St Kilda scene.  Inviting us for a bloggers dinner, I could not wait to meet fellow bloggers and try some delicious Italian cuisine with high expectations.

Remo greeted us as we entered and after introductions, the question was: wine, the answer was: of course.  Sipping a glass of Tiefenbrunner 2011 Sauvignon, we discussed the un-sauvignon tastes whilst waiting for the others to arrive.  Its scent was of sauvignon, fruity with full fresh grapes.  In the mouth it was dry with sturdy acid, fruit of green grapes and mineral overtones.  It was Italian but from the north near Switzerland.

A trip through the kitchen followed with an education about pasta and pizza.  Pasta perfectionist Piero Roldo explained how to make tagliolina, which is as much about instinct and tradition as it is about science.  How thick should the pasta be?  There are no rulers, he has to feel it.

The pizza section held the same integrity for the food and tradition.  Leno demonstrated the dough making, explaining the importance of using fresh yeast, kneading on marble, not letting the dough sit around due to moisture, and allowing enough time for it to rise.  Other than Leno, the stand-out in the pizza kitchen is the Marana oven which operates on wood with a gas back up, to give a wood-fired taste without the hassle of having to watch the pizzas constantly or moving them to accommodate inconsistent temperatures.  Put it in the rotating oven, and a few minutes later, it is done.  Not even expert taste testers could tell the difference.

By this stage, stomachs were growling from the overly enticing demonstrations.  It was, luckily, time to eat.

Catering for vegetarians, Remo’s description of an antipasto then pizza, was not exactly what was delivered.
It started with figs.  Fresh figs.  Ripe and juicy in a carpaccio with blue vein cheese.  It was cold and peppery with fig skins face down and fig puree.  Rocket sat on top along with a drizzling of balsamic.  It was so fresh and delightful, using common flavours but in a different way.  I love figs.


This went well with a Terzini, Cerasuloo D’Abruzzo, Rose.  It smelt like strawberries and tasted like raspberry jelly, an interesting flavour for wine to hold.

Next was eggplant parmigiana, traditional, typical and Italian.  It smelt delicious.  Served very hot, I was instantly warming to this one.  The tomato went all the way through the layers of eggplant and mozzarella was on top.  I love eggplant.


The beetroot ravioli is apparently their signature vegetarian dish.  Like the eggplant, this was so fragrant.  The scent of the brown nut butter made my mouth water even more.  The pasta was fresh and cooked al dente.  Inside was bright red beetroot, that tasted just like beetroot but was grainy in texture.  I asked for their secret.  98% beetroot, then breadcrumbs and amaretti biscuits.  I would not have guessed that.  I loved this dish for the creativity in using simple ingredients but in an innovative way.  Plus, it tasted sublime.


The others were eating some meaty dish but were salivating over the mashed potato.  Ok, so I had to try this too.  It was buttery and smooth with a slight saltiness of parmesan.  The beans were pleasantly still crunchy whilst being fully cooked, taken off at the perfect moment.  These tasted like they had been done in butter as well as olive oil.


Wine moved back to white with a Terzini 2011 Pecorino.  This was very pale in colour so that it was almost clear.  It was a very interesting smell, almost like the cheese pecorino itself.  Despite this it was a fresh young wine, dry, mineral and with subtle fruit of lime.

Pizza.  I love pizza.

There were two types.  The first was tomato, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.  The crust was very thin, only heavier on the crust.  The flavours were strong with tomato and basil.  It was simple but good.  I also tried the chilli oil on this one, it held more heat than most.


The tartufata was with mushrooms on a truffle cream base.  This was delightfully fragrant with truffle.  The cheese on this one was stringy and made for interesting textures with the crunchy base and mushrooms.  The truffle was subtle and there was a refreshing bitterness and freshness from the contrasting rocket.


On to red with the pizza, a Chianti Classio by Cecchi, 2009.  It smelt dusty and of berries.  The colour was dark red.  It tasted dry with heavy tannins and texture on the tongue.

We did not need dessert.  But then we needed it also.

The cassata was rolls of cake with spices, dried fruit and fresh ricotta.  Dark chocolate was melted and artistically splattered on the side.  It was very interesting with lots of flavours and textures.


More dessert?  Surely not.  But we had to try the Nutella pizza.  Why does melted Nutella always smell so good?  This had a crispy base and was slightly bitter as if they had put salt in the dough.


I was so excited by the whole experience of Itali.Co.  I was amazed at how fragrant each dish was, and at the integrity of the food and its Italian roots.  Figs are just at the end of their season, I was told, but to have them so fresh and flavoursome in the dishes showed how committed they are to quality produce.  Not only was each course delicious, but it took Italian traditions and put them together in innovative ways.

Perhaps the most telling was the food envy from the young meat-eater sitting next to me (he had just enjoyed copious seafood, beef and who knows what else).

"Wow," he said (after having eyed off my figs, parmigiana and ravioli),  "I'll have to come back here as a vegetarian next time."

Itali.Co
1/173-177 Barkly Street
St Kilda 3182
03 9537 5300
www.italico.com.au

Itali.Co on Urbanspoon

19 comments:

  1. Mmm, you are makingme hungry :)! I may have to try this place, looks amazing!

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  2. Yes, so so yummy. I can smell the ravioli now... mmmmmmm

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  3. Denise said...

    Tried this place last night at your recommendation.

    Loved it, dreaming of beetroot. MMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. Good to hear Denise. Delightful, wasn't it? So fragrant too.

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  5. I absolutely love the pizzas at +39, which is my favourite pizzeria in Melbourne. You've got me intrigued to try Itali.Co
    Ros

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  6. Just had lunch at Itali.co. The beetroot ravioli was meltingly delicious, the tiramisu was really smooth and as good as any I've had in Italy, and the Italian chocolate cupcake was wickedly indulgent. Ros

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  7. Lovely. Glad you enjoyed it. I didn't get to try the Tiramisu...although I do make a nice one myself from a recipe learnt in Florence (apparently the birth place of it).

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    1. It is my favourite dessert and I would travel far and wide in search of the best. Used to live in Prato (near Florence) and I would have tiramisu every second week. Still not tired of eating it. Itali.co was quiet at lunch yesterday; hope business improves for them. Wouldn't want them to close. Ros

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    2. It is my favourite dessert and I would travel far and wide in search of the best. Used to live in Prato (near Florence) and I would have tiramisu every second week. Still not tired of eating it. Itali.co was quiet at lunch yesterday; hope business improves for them. Wouldn't want them to close. Ros

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  8. Oops my laptop was playing up. Ros

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  9. Wow. That sounds like a movie. Perhaps I will go home and make some tonight.

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    1. Eighteen months in Italy, a new food experience in a different town every second week was a dream, a once-in-lifetime experience. The best tiramisu, the best torta della nona, the best cannoli, the best sphagetti allo scolio, the best limoncello, the best lasagna... the list goes on and on. The memories and flavours are indelibly etched in my mind and on my tastebuds. Enjoy your tiramisu.

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    2. After reading your review I went last night to try the food. The beetroot ravioli was quite sensational. The flavours and textures were great. Also tried the tiramisu: they are transitioning from the amaretto tira to the classic tira, but had both available. The amaretto tira was very good.

      Michael

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    3. I've been telling all my friends about Itali.co and raving about the ravioli and the tiramisu. Glad you enjoyed the so much. I can still smell the ravioli and taste the tiramisu. Ros

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  10. After the delicious lunch at Itali.co, I couldn't resist going back to their Sardinian night yesterday evening. The food was amazing and the servings were very generous. I really enjoyed their ravioli filled with potato, mint and Sardinian pecorino, the pumpkin focaccia and the Sardinian faro with basil pesto. (I won't mention the food which is not vegetarian.) The ravioli was my favourite. Tiramisu was not on the degustation menu and I was too full to order it. It just means I'll have an excuse to go back another time. The restuarant was packed and it was buzzing. A bit noisy but then everyone was enjoying themselves. A very enjoyable night. Ros

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  11. Having enjoyed lunch and the Sardinian Night at itali.co, I decided to have my farewell dinner there. The pizzas were excellent! I had to have my favourite dessert tiramisu this time but most of the group had the chocolate fondant cupcake. Both were absolutely delicious beyond words, and my tiramisu was deeply satisfying. I loved the smooth creaminess of it (perhaps knowing that I won't be able to have it again for another 3 months made it all the more enjoyable). Service was great too. I also got to meet some of the Italian staff as I told the waitress that I used to live and work in Italy. Ros

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  12. Oh that is so lovely. All the best with the preparations and have a great time in China!!

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  13. The Italian conversation group decided to have dinner at itali.co St Kilda last Sunday. I wasn't going to miss out on having a pizza after nearly 4 months in China so I made sure I didn't miss it. I ordered the Giulia pizza with imported buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil. I love the smell and taste of fresh basil, and it went so well with the mozzarella. The dough was thin and crispy. You know how fresh the dough is when you can still taste the flour, and it was slightly salty. Of course, there was room for my favourite dessert - tiramisu classico. I wasn't disappointed as usual. Ros

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  14. I miss pizza when I travel to Asia too. And so much more fitting for you to enjoy Italian conversation with Italian food! I tried that pizza and found it salty too - but delicious for it. Glad you enjoyed it again. And wonderful to be able to share food experiences :)

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