Provini – Do we really need another Italian restaurant?
by The Editor
While Italy possess a rich culture of food and wine, you could be easily forgiven for thinking the cuisine has been done to death. In Australia, Italian food has become so homogenised we can barely get past a ‘spag bol’ or soggy garlic bread while searching for a true understanding of its traditions. Where do we go from here?
It’s important to recognise that post-World War II, hundreds of thousands on Italian immigrants tried to adapt their culture on these shores and, as a result of that process, a cross-cultural style emerged that is like nowhere else in the world. It’s the Australian-Italian fusion, and it’s one that is worth celebrating as our own.
And so we have Provini (Italian, to audition), a cute and quirky little restaurant that plays games with traditional perceptions of Italian culture, and definitely has fun with its modern interpretation within an Antipodean setting.
From a design point of view, it had the fittings and finishes that you would expect the Cocu Group. Every surface is considered and the detail is immaculate. This isn’t the sort of venue that pops up overnight, but one that has been crafted with care and thought.
Sound a bit much? Wait until you check it out.
It all starts at the entry with a small little terrace that looks over Garema Place. Stepping up onto the brick balcony you immediately notice the small, round tables on wrought iron legs, that would be well served with a couple of nunnos playing chef or cards as cups of espresso give way to small glasses of limoncello. However, it’s the twee lace curtain that sits inside the window that gives the first real indication of what Provini is trying to do.
The interior reveals a series of visual cues that both ridicule and celebrate the awkward fit for Italian tradition within the New World. The carpet is utterly outrageous – a swirling myriad of mid-20th Century colours and shapes that will Mediterranean design that had us laugh out loud when we first saw it. It’s a brilliant addition, which takes a certain self-assuredness to pull off.
Peter Bell, formerly of Parlour Wine Room is il maestro del vino and boy, hasn’t he had fun? Many Australian wine drinkers may have traditionally frowned upon chianti, but this list is so much more. The wine list is a fabulous exploration of what Italian wines can be and urges you explore new varietals and regions.
Tuscan, Sicilian and Trentinian wines can be found throughout, as well as plenty of local favourites (including the house wine, made by Nick Spencer from Eden Road). Plus, there is some deliciously smooth chianti included for good measure.
The menu takes the classic dishes of Italian restaurants that we have all grown up with them and gives them a gentle twist. Portions are manageable, but encourage you to explore a number of courses without feeling overwhelmed. The great news is that the price is also restrained, with all but three dishes on the menu coming in at $29.00 or under. This is a big win.
With Italian lessons conducted in the toilets (actually!) and copper shingles over the kitchen pass that poke fun at the old exterior/exterior design cliché, this is a trainspotter’s guide to Italian post-war esoterica. A celebration of the new Australian-Italian style, Provini is clever, delicious, and a hell of a lot of fun.