A simple taste of modern Italy, Da Mario is here to warm up winter.
As the cool solitude of winter approaches, a warming hum radiates from the bottom floor of a refurbished warehouse in Rosebery. Da Mario is bringing authentic Italian charm to the rapidly expanding Rosebery food scene.
Beckoned by the comforting light and warmth beaming from a three tonne pizza oven, Da Mario invites young and old to feast on a homely fusion of traditional cuisine amidst the charm of an alternative fit out. Cascading from the ceiling of the exposed brick warehouse, lively fern pots add to the calming ambience of the dining experience.
Dining at seven on Friday evening, we are greeted by a mixed bag of patrons. Families, singles and couples celebrating the end of the working week spill out onto tables in the outdoor dining area at the front of house.
Buzzing with frivolity and the fragrances fleeing the expansive open kitchen, Da Mario unapologetically serves up comfort food with a hint of modern presentation.
No Italian feast is complete with a glass of vino. As tables of children around us fuel their technological addiction, we unashamedly decide to pair our four-course gluttony with a mix of Da Mario’s staffs’ favourite drops. Trust the staff, whose gleaming presence will point you in the right direction.
Almost as soon as we decide how our trip through Italy will take place at Da Mario, our dishes appear in front of us.
First we dine on the wonders of the deep. Polipo ($21) is the perfect entree to showcase Da Mario’s appreciation of decadent ingredients. Bathed in a sedately stewed tomato sauce speckled with black olives, rings of octopus shroud a freshly toasted piece of bread. A stunning performer in its own right, the perfectly grilled octopus is given a boost by the pops of olive saltiness that appear sporadically in the sauce. Remnants of tomato pulp seep into the crispy loaf and as we scoop up every last ounce of the delectable tomato and olive sauce, we are reminded that succumbing to the encroaching winter may not be the worst thing.
The dulcet tomato and octopus duo is then replaced by a peculiar looking dish that could be mistaken for another creature from the sea.
Drizzled in a transparent glaze of honey and a pronounced punch of oregano, the Provola ($15) is further evidence of Da Mario’s contained approach to visual amazement. There is almost no need to marry the semi-circular arch of grilled cheese with the accompanying slice of lemon. Sharp and tangy, the provolone is undeniably salty but the bath of honey and oregano sauce balances the intended bitterness.
The throbbing shell of orange hides an oozy belly of melted provolone. Even as the dish is left to sit and the inner-body hardens, the cheese is worth a third and fourth visit.
The Da Mario staff point us to the specials board for mains and back to the seafood options.
The house made Tagliolini pasta special ($28) comes doused in a muted chilli sauce with shards of sesame seeds and is a safe bet for even the fussiest eater. This is no regular mid-week pasta cook up. Bobbing amongst bursting cherry tomatoes and zucchini skins wades chewy chucks of blue swimmer crab. Da Mario allows for the memorable flavour of the crab to shine beyond the gorgeous redness of the sauce. As the crab quickly disappears, the al dente tagliolini and zesty chilli more then compensate for the price of the dish.
Calling to us loudly from the menu, the risotto alla barbabietola ($24) is enough to make us decide to forgo dessert in favour of more of Da Mario’s impeccable treatment of traditional favourites. Files of risotto rice cannot help but be consumed by the simple yet remarkable burrow of imposing betrooty red. An unending swirl, white gorgonzola sauce and random, but perfectly, placed cubes of boiled beetroot, provide enough relief from the dominating red to dazzle us.
Proving that the simple things in life are often the greatest, the beetroot and gorgonzola partnership is no exception. A pure and simple balance of refined root vegetable and powerful cheese, the bullets of soft risotto absorb the sauce’s creaminess.
As the charming simplicity of the risotto lingers, we end our trip to little Italy in the heart of Rosebery. A rapid visit abroad we farewell Da Mario within an hour of being seated in the full restaurant, a testament to the fast-moving and accommodating staff and kitchen.
Home to an assortment of cliental, Da Mario is the embodiment of Italian passion and family flair. The dishes are presented as simply as they read on the menu, but make no mistake Da Mario is hardly a replacement for your mid-week home cooked pasta. If you are craving a warming hug from modern Italy you have a new place to go.
Open Tues-Thurs 5pm-9.30pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-3pm, 5pm-9.30pm