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It’s been a long time between visits to Sosta Cucina but I was happily reminded by how much I like this North Melbourne stalwart. It’s the kind of place that I’d love to have as my Italian local – the mainly Northern Italian menu is delicious and unpretentious and the owners, executive chef Maurice Santucci and his wife Melissa, work the front of house, clearly loving what they do. It’s hospitality with a capital H.

I was recently invited to rediscover Sosta Cucina as they were hosting the launch of Lavazza Australia’s premium, invitation-only coffee blend, Gran Riserva.

Long time readers will know that one of the quirks of my stomach is that I don’t drink coffee – but I will happily eat it in food! So while I can’t comment on the quality of Lavazza‘s Gran Riserva blend (80% Arabica and 20% Robusta sourced from Brazil, Central America and India) I can report that it is delicious in an Espresso Martini and tiramisu (more on that later).

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The dinner included some of Sosta Cucina‘s current and past menu items and some special one-off dishes. It started with antipasti – a vitello tonnato with lightly poached veal, tuna mayonnaise, seared yellowfin tun and capers. I found the meat to be slightly chewy but the unusual (though traditional) surf-and-turf combination of flavours was well-balanced.

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Next up was Sosta Cucina‘s version of a steak tartare. It was made with hand cut pasture fed beef fillet marinated with garlic, anchony and olive oil and then you were invited to make a Pro Hart mess with the nettle puree and egg cream. The whole combination was then piled onto some toasted brioche.

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From the savoury courses the highlights for me were the primi piatti. First up, fat agnolotti filled with veal and rabbit and a classic sage and butter emulsion. So bad for your waistline, so great for your tastebuds.

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Then a masterful risotto made with generous slabs of porcini mushrooms, with just the right bite to each rice grain and bringing an autumnal earthiness to the nose. If you’re eating at Sosta Cucina then you must try their pasta/risotto dishes.

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Of the secondi meat dishes my favourite was a braised rabbit with pancetta, thyme, chestnut honey and pearl onions, with its blend of sweetness, saltiness and pickled sourness.

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The dinner concluded with a unique take on tiramisu which I hope will end up on the Sosta Cucina menu. Each person received a traditional silver coffee platter with the ingredients and equipment to ‘make your own’ Gran Riserva tiramisu. The espresso coffee was inside the miniature percolater and then you layered and mixed the sponge discs and marscapone cream inside. It added a little bit of interactive theatre to enhance a quintessentially Italian dessert.

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Sosta Cucina are the first restaurant in Australia to serve Lavazza‘s Gran Riserva blend and the launch demonstrated the skill of their kitchen in interpreting traditional Piedmont dishes. It’s worth a visit, with or without a coffee.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne +61 3 

Sosta Cucina on Urbanspoon


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