Many of us have great memories of gathering in the family kitchen. A mix of food and fun times is intrinsic to that cosy setting… and Agostinis at East Hotel aims to replicate this warmth.
Named after the mother of owners Dion and Dan Bisa, the restaurant builds on the heritage of Australia’s immigrant Italian community and brings many classic dishes into a contemporary setting designed by Kelly Ross’ sharp, yet meaningful eye for detail. Dion has fond memories of watching her grandmother, (or nonna) cook, and much of that experience forms part of this exciting new restaurant.
At first impression, the dining room appears expansive – it’s possible to seat almost 200 inside – but at no time does Agostinis lose its sense of intimacy. The room is cleverly divided into separate spaces through the clever use of colours and textures, and diners collect around tables within the various nooks and crannies to enjoy treats on offer from Head Chef Francesco Balestrieri.
The menu investigates the classic themes of Italian cooking – fresh salads, delicate pasta, aromatic pizzas, succulent meats and delicious desserts. So many options present every temptation to over-order but, in classic Italian style, we recommend you order a few dishes and share, and slowly build up the meal over time.
A great way to start is with some antipasto. Agostinis sister-venue, Joe’s Bar, perfected this perennial favourite, but in this setting, the dish acts as an introduction to the many flavours available across the menu.
A fitting accompaniment is the Frico which features paper-thin layers of Montasio cheese and potatoes that are oven-roasted and served like a pizza. The flavours are truly mouth-watering and make for a great start to a meal.
If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s worth testing the beautiful pizza oven that commands a central space in the open kitchen. As one of only half-a-dozen of its kind in Australia, this art piece can produce a metre-long pizza for you and your fellow diners to share.
Up to three of the menu’s 20 different toppings can be included so no one should go hungry. Of course, the full range of pizzas is available in more manageable 12-inch versions. With a super thin crust, they offer plenty of flavour without making diners feel overly full.
For pasta, the Tonnarelli alla Bottarga is a great demonstration of Agostinis’ philosophy. Square-cut spaghetti is mixed with finely grated Bottarga (a salt-cured fish roe), as well as garlic, chilli, lemon and parsley. The texture from the roe brings an unusual ‘pop’ of flavour, while the house-made pasta provides the perfect setting for this fresh taste of the sea.
For the true carnivore, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina offers one kilogram of T-Bone steak that is charred, cooked medium rare and sliced into thin pieces. By keeping the recipe simple, the aged cut of beef is presented in its most mouth-watering form. All you need to decide on is your choice of sauces and enjoy the succulent flavour.
Given this is an Italian restaurant, desserts are pride of place. Light puffs of fairy floss decorate various flavours of gelato. A reinvented Tiramisu is prepared to order, while those without a sweet tooth will find it hard to resist a naughty little affogato drenched in Cafe Patron XO tequila
After all that, it might be time to leave the family kitchen and head to the couch for a nap. However, we suspect that the warmth and friendliness of Agostinis might just hold you a little longer… and have you looking to return very soon.