500 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
So, I’m an Italian girl who writes about food most days, who also rarely eats at Italian restaurants. Kinda weird, I know, but as I’ve mentioned before, I find it hard to actually get really good Italian food, so I’d rather just go to a different type of restaurant and not be disappointed. But Rosa Mitchell is also a good Italian girl who knows good Italian food, so I was actually really excited to try her Canteen. I went in with my best friend earlier this week, hoping for the best but trying not to get too prematurely excited, just in case. Turns out my fears were utterly and completely unfounded.
The gorgeous little 62 seat eatery sits up in Melbourne’s legal district, overlooking the dome of the Supreme Court, nails that most perfect and difficult to reach mix of fine dining crossed with a seat in a good Italian kitchen; the silverware and glasses are sparkling, the service on point. But there was also the big bowl of home grown tomatoes of all shapes and colours, and a bowl similarly filled with apples next to it on the front counter. Those touches really made it feel like home for this Italian girl. The menu is beautifully simple, a few entrees, a few mains, a few pastas, a few sides, a few desserts. We started with the beef carpaccio ($20), which we both really enjoyed – buttery soft and thin slices of beef with capers and cheese, perfect way to start a meal!
For mains, I had a bit of a nostalgic moment when I saw the parmigana di melanzane ($25), the eggplant parmigiana, and I had to have it. It was admittedly a little smaller than I’d have expected for the price, but it was perfect. It tasted just like Nonna’s cooking – soft, tasty eggplant in a way I can never get mine to be, that rich, sweet tomato sauce with the bits of fresh basil through it, and a sprinkle of parmesan on top. It tasted like happy childhood memories, Italian to perfection!
Bestie got the other dish I had considered – the cassarecci pasta with lamb ragout and peas ($20). The lamb was unbelievably tender, and we were both stoked to taste the pasta – cooked properly, al dente. How very refreshing to get a bowl of pasta cooked the way it’s meant to be cooked, and not to soggy mush! That’s how it’s meant to be done, and that’s a bowl of pasta I’d go back for.
We also grabbed Rosa’s iceberg salad ($8.50), which, again, tasted happily familiar. Nonna has always, and still does, serve up her bowls of pasta and/or mains with a big bowl of salad.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper Italian meal without dessert ($12); lemon mascarpone tart? Why yes, thank you! It was the absolutely perfect way to end the meal. Golden, buttery crust with a silky smooth filling, not too sweet, not too tart. Would love some more of that, too!
I’m not sure what I was expecting; I’ve eaten at the Journal Canteen before, one of Rosa’s past food babies, and thoroughly enjoyed the pasta there. I’ve never heard a bad word about her food. And yet, having grown up around this kind of food, pasta made from scratch by my Nonna’s own hands with sugo made from vegetables grown in the backyard, it’s hard to live up to those expectations. Well, expectations met and exceeded, thank you Rosa for a beautiful dinner, and I look forward to coming back for more soon : )