Rosetta Ristorante, Sydney
It is a warm spring day, I am sitting at Rosetta Ristorante, the Neil Perry’s Rockpool Dining Group new venture in Sydney. I am joined by my cruising and foodie friend Magali, who is just as keen as I am to try the latest eateries around town. She has been my dining partner before, at the fine dining Rockpool before it became Jade Temple, and other trendy venues in the city. This time, we decided to go Italian.
In my case it was not that I felt like Italian food so much, it is a cuisine I have very little to do with, beside pasta and pizzas. The main reason is Terry’s dislike for any tomato based dishes which he associates with Italian gastronomy, so I rarely cook it at home. But today, it is just us girls, and if someone is going to serve good Italian, surely it must be Neil Perry!
Located in Sydney CBD, Rosetta is spread across 3 levels: a terrace, the main dining area, and a bar and a mezzanine. I enter a lift to access the restaurant, and a sharply dressed lady takes me to our table, nicely set next to the wine cabinet and with a partial view of the open kitchen. While I wait for Magali, I observe the ballet of staff welcoming diners. Most are wearing suits, hinting at the corporate clientele, and though the place only opened 6 weeks ago, judging by the familiarity of the greeting of some customers, Rosetta appears to have become a regular lunch cantina for a few people. My heart skips a beat, when I spot a dark suited figure striding in towards the kitchen. The pony tail gives him away, and I can’t wait to tell Magali “ Neil is in the house!”. We are like teenage girls with a crush, disappointed to hear he was gone soon after he arrived, but quickly get over it by ordering a Rosetta Bellini. Made with fresh strawberries and prosecco, it is the perfect start for a midweek lunch. While we chat, the waiter comes over with freshly made grissini and an offering of sourdough or foccacia bread, to dip in extra virgin olive oil poured from the bottle in front of us. Magali checks out the label and nods in approval, I don’t bother looking as I have already dunked my bread in and it tasted divine.
The menu offerings cover all options with a few vegetarian dishes, seafood and poultry ( 2 duck dishes even! ). But what takes my fancy, is items I don’t often see on Sydney menus: veal features in 4 different ways ( as an entree of veal tonnato, in osso bucco, , crumbed alla milanese, and a grilled veal rump) and tripes alla Romana. Yes, tripes!!! Since I always make a point of ordering what I don’t cook at home, the choice is easy: veal tonnato and tripes for me!
The veal tonnato comes as a surprise. Instead of the traditional presentation of cold poached veal slices with a tuna mayonnaise, the dish looks more like a terrine of tuna with thin lemon slices and parsley leaves draped over it. You need to slice thru to find the paper thin veal slices actually layered inside, very much like a terrine. The combination of the veal, the tuna, the baby capers, lemon and olive oil is perfect. The flavours are so intense, we can’t tell if there is any mayonnaise ( if there is, you hardly taste it ). It is quite a rich entree, large enough to share ( which I do, as i can’t finish it ), and one that I would easily serve at home with witlof leaves as an elegant canape ( or on bruschetta for a hearty snack!).
Magali’s entree of asparagus and soft boiled eggs looks very pretty and she delights in its simplicity yet deliciousness. She sighs with pleasure, saying she feels like being in Sicily again. I suspect the glass of Sicilian Grillo wine she ordered helps. I should know, as I am particularly pleased with my own choice of Monrose Rose, a dry rose wine from Lombardia that tastes more like a white wine ( in a good way ).
The tripes are served in a large shallow plate, soup-like. the dish has a rustic look about it, with plenty of tomato sauce ( I think of Terry ) and a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese. The meat is tender yet still with a bite to it, and the sauce sweet and slightly tangy. I love it and wish I could bring the plate to my lips to slurp the last of the sauce.
Magali could not go past the pasta and ordered the spaghetti a la chitarra with king prawns and pistachios. She is very happy with her choice, though surprised to see the thin pasta was flavoured with squid ink, a fact not mentioned on the menu.
Both meals are quite filling, and we try very hard to make a dent in the side dish of baby carrots and stracciatella ( my choice, I have a weakness for the fresh cheese ). The vegetables are simply roasted and served with a generous amount of stracciatella, a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil and seasoning. Sadly, we could not finish this.
Needless to say that we had no room for dessert either, which is quite sad considering that we both started lunch with desserts in mind: I skipped the pasta and Magali the secondi, so that we could taste at least the canoli! Oh, well, that means we’ll have to come back. I might even lure Terry in next time…