It sounds like two life long dreams: “One day I want to be a Formula One racing car driver” and “one day I want to own a vineyard in gorgeous Italy off the Adriatic Coast”. Most would be lucky to obtain just one, but for Jarno Trulli, Italian born F1 driver for Lotus and owner of Podere Castorani vineyard, luck has nothing to do with it. This man has skills.
He’s also a delightful dinner guest as I recently discovered at Mezzaluna Italiano in Potts Point where the entire restaurant was booked for a six-course degustation with matching wines from Jarno’s vineyard. It was also an introduction to new Head Chef Fabio Pappagallo.
I run past Mezzaluna every week and despite being open since 2008 I’ve never been. On the outside it looks small, stylish and traditional. On the inside it is stylish but certainly not small. This split-level restaurant fills a huge space with breathtaking city skyline views, I’m immediately impressed. I take a seat with some fellow bloggers, Simon and John and the cameras come out! It’s going to be a fun evening.
Jarno is sitting a few tables away, tired and jet-lagged having landed in Sydney a few hours earlier. We’ll have a chance to meet him later but first…it’s dinnertime.
Owners Angelo Italiani and Aldo Bertoli have over 40 years of experience in traditional Italian cuisine. I expected rich, wholesome, traditional Italian and was surprised when I saw the modern menu.
We had some unusual canapés to start, the least ‘adventurous’ and my favourite was the bundle of prosciutto stuffed with ricotta, olives and leek. There was the panna cotta with parmigiano reggiano and fresh green pea jelly –yes you read correctly, panna cotta and parmigiano…it wasn’t as awful as it sounds. I actually enjoyed the flavours and the light and fluffy texture. We also had yellow fin tuna with goat’s cheese mousse, topped with a cucumber, celery and green apple jelly. The goats cheese was overpowering and I couldn’t take more than a few bites.
My least favourite dish of the evening with the pineapple and chilli soup with fromage frais foam. It had mixed reactions around the table. Some didn’t mind the taste, while others, myself included found it confusing and texturally wrong! The pineapple and chilli may have been better served as an icy cocktail. The fromage frais foam would taste great on a savory dish. Combined, I felt like someone slipped something nasty in my shot at a bar.
Thankfully the baby pears poached in cognac and blackcurrant with zabaglione cream was delicious and took the pineapple/cheesy aftertaste away.
They’d been a lot of talk about the entree of pearl meat tartare marinated in cumquat juice, served with pomegranate seed aspic and a pink grapefruit and green chilli sorbet. I am thankful to have tried it for the sheer fact I’d never heard of or tried pearl meat and apparently it’s a very rare find here in Australia.
Pearl Meat is the muscle of an oyster that allows it to close its shell. It’s considered a delicacy and very popular in Asia. Visually it looked rather anemic on the plate. The texture reminded me of chicken mince and was hard to savour with the pomegranate seeds. I felt the cumquat juice overpowered the pearl meat and I couldn’t taste the flavour. Next time I’d like to try it flash-seared and served separately.
Poached turkey with ginger mayonnaise and limoncello sauce was the second entree. Any time I see cold meats served this way it reminds me of the packet meat you get a Coles. I didn’t enjoy the ginger mayonnaise and think the limoncello sauce was lost in the dish.
I loved the main of grilled venison noisettes served with layered sweet potatoes, leeks and chestnuts. I felt as though this was the type of dish I’d been waiting for all night. The venison was beautifully cooked and the sweet potato, leek and chestnuts complimented the meat. Simple, wholesome flavours executed perfectly. That’s how I like my Italian food. It was also Jarno’s favourite dish of the evening!
Cheese and Sweets
To finish we had Formaggi con Montepulciano, Pecorino cheese with chestnut honey and Gorgonzola with yellow peach jam. Yes we were very spoilt! Did I mention there were Bacio chocolates and grappa to finish? Yes, spoilt indeed! Bellies full it was time for Jarno to take the room.
Interview with Jarno (Questions thanks to my friends on Twitter)
How did you feel when you won in 2004? Very excited, it was a special moment for me.
Just how sticky is it when you pop and spray those bubbles? (laughs) It’s very sticky you need a really good wash to get it off afterwards.
What happens when you’re on lap 34 of 80 and you need to use the bathroom? You go beforehand but you know, (laughs) if you have to go…you just go.
What’s your favourite eat? Pizza
Favourite drink? Coca cola Are they your sponsor? No I just like it.
Favourite play? Sports-tennis, cycling, swimming, playing with kids.
I had a wonderful evening, absolutely loved the look and feel of Mezzaluna, it’s a gorgeous restaurant. Jarno is a sweet Italian man who makes some decent wine! The menu was adventurous and I applaud Fabio for pushing boundaries and offering unique dishes. I’d be interested to see the a la carte menu on a regular night. I also heard a whisper that they’re renovating the front bar, a new small bar addition to Potts Point headed our way? Hope so!
Mezzaluna Ristorante Italiano
123 Victoria Road Potts Point, NSW 2011