After three weeks of non-stop Chinese food on our honeymoon, what a nice way to get back into real (Western) life than to sit down to Southern Italian comfort food with Pasta Al Giro.
What is Pasta Al Giro? A feast of fresh and filled pasta to share with your table for $45 a head, held semi-regularly on Monday Nights at Mezzo Bar & Grill.
The evening started off with drinks – in the centre of the dining room stands a handsome marble-topped bar stocked with colourful bottles, overlooked by large red velvet lamp shades and a huge mirror on the back wall. At one stage the waitress stood still with her arms resting on the bar, staring straight ahead in her own thoughts, and the image brought to mind Manet’s famous painting Bar at the Folies Bergere.
The menu for Pasta Al Giro describes it as a ‘tour of pastas from Pippo’s childhood’, Pippo being the nickname of chef/part owner Joseph Vargetto. In fact, a cute picture of him holding a kitty cat is the background for the menu of six (!) pastas and dessert. You definitely won’t be going home hungry after this meal.
To start, some gorgeous bread. Honestly, they could have made the night Bread Al Giro and I would have been happy. These rolls were oven-warm, soft with a slight chewiness and gave off the mouth-watering aroma of something akin to bacon! I managed to fit in three rolls over the course of the dinner, dipped in olive oil or used to mop up the delicious pasta sauces.
First course was parmesan and ricotta cappelletti in brodo. A little light starter with three pillowy dumplings resting in a warming broth threaded with melted parmesan.
Mezzo recently ran a Twitter competition for the best pasta recipe, and Cutler & Co sommelier Sally Humble won with her tuna pasta dish. Joseph has turned a simple homely recipe into restaurant-quality guiseppe cocco penne with yellowfin tuna, basil, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and olive oil.
Tortelli of pumpkin, crushed amaretti biscuit and sage butter sauce was one of my favourite dishes – sweet pumpkin and sweet biscuit is a pretty good combination.
Apparently a special machine is required to produce cavatelli, a sort of rolled up pasta shape with spirals on one end and smooth on the other end. Cavatelli di messina, asparagus and meatballs with pecorino sauce was a real hit with the table and we all wanted to take home the little copper saucepans.
Best dish of the night was a toss-up between the cavatelli and the guiseppe cocco buccatini with mussels, clams and pepperoncino. I love fat pasta, especially when you can suck up the sauce through the hollow tubes, making a very satisfying slurping sound.
The least successful dish of the night was the spinach ricotta gnocchi with pork and veal sausage ragu. The gnocchi was a solid mass which lacked bite – it was like eating a potato gem. The sauce was good but personally I’m not a fan of mincey sauces, especially containing veal.
By this time we were rolling around in our seats and literally loosening our belts. Fortunately, dessert was a light affair – a scoop of Santa Vittoria blood orange and raspberry soda sorbet. I didn’t care much for the rather oily crostini but the sorbet was a refreshing end to the meal.
For another mouth-watering write-up of Pasta Al Giro, check out Addictive & Consuming. To read what other people have said about Mezzo generally, check out Eating Melbourne and Stephen Downes at Herald Sun/Taste.com.au.
Thank you to Mezzo Bar & Grill for inviting me to attend Pasta Al Giro.