Love the idea of sunning yourself in Tuscany but can’t afford the airfare? Believe it or not, a little bit of Italy can be found at Olivigna at Warrandyte South, just 30 minutes from Melbourne.
Drive up to Olivigna, surrounded by tall cypress trees, and it’s like driving up towards the Tuscan hills. The 20 acre property contains olive groves, a vineyard, orchard and garden, with a rustic stone restaurant, La Sala, at its centre.
The restaurant is large and bright and provides stunning views over the rolling hills of Warrandyte/Tuscany. I particularly loved the enormous gothic chandeliers presiding over the massive fireplace and the dining hum full of families and celebration.
The site is a dream and work in progress for the owners, Black Salt Catering’s Anna Gallo and developer John Di Pietro. Their love of the place is evident from all the small touches in the restaurant, such as the wooden shoe lasts picked up from France to use as coat racks.
As part of Olivigna mission to be an Italianate food and wine destination, they hold regularly Italian cooking classes on site. I was invited to a pasta making class at Olivigna which took place on one side of La Sala with Piera Benini, the restaurant’s pasta chef and a native of Bologna (a city known for its food and has the nickname ‘Fat Bologna’). I’ve previously sampled Piera’s pasta magic at Ladro Greville so she knows her stuff.
Over 2 hours Piera showed us how to make pasta from start to finish, from combining the dough to rolling it to cutting it.
After our morning’s instruction the kitchen, headed by chef chef Colin Swalwell (ex Yering Station), made our lunch while we were ushered to enjoy our handiwork in the private dining room, a space inspired by a traditional wine cellar/cave.
To start we enjoyed some freshly sliced prosciutto and house grown olives and fresh bread from the enormous wood oven accompanied by housemade olive oil (bottled just 3 days before).
Our feast continued with three different types of pasta – the tortellini we made, pappardelle with traditional napoli sauce and a surprise third dish, the restaurant’s signature Scaliatelli alle Vongole with clams, sweet zucchini and a touch of chilli. Our meal was served with a glass of Olivigna‘s own wine.
If you enjoyed your meal you can even take some of it home from the Olivigna food store. There you will find award-winning olive oils, caramelised onion jam and preserves that are all made on site plus the estate’s wines.
After your meal have a stroll around the gardens, sit by the open fire pit with a hot toddy or try your hand at the bocce court.
Olivigna is such an unexpected find in Melbourne and it truly does bring a sense of Italy to our city. Get away from the city on a sunny weekend and bask in stunning scenery straight out of Under the Tuscan Sun while dining on fresh, local and home-grown produce from the estate. If you want to get hands-on with your Italian cooking, sign up to one of their masterclasses – a perfect Father’s Day outing or gift perhaps?
Olivigna, 54-56 Brumbys Road, Warrandyte South (03) 9844 4676