Last week, The Adelaidian was invited to dine at Amaro Ristorante, an upmarket contemporary Italian restaurant on Hutt Street. The owner of the establishment, a passionate woman by the name of Ursula, greeted us warmly and seated us at a cosy table for two with a crisp, white tablecloth and big, brown armchairs. The menu, written in Italian with English descriptions to accompany, is presented in typical Italian format and divided into four sections; antipasti, primi, secondi and qualcosa di dolce (dessert).
Ursula encouraged us to chose the ‘selezioni cello chef’ option, which allows the chef to chose three to four courses for you to dine on, and at an additional cost matching Italian varietal wines can be added. Diners will have a different experience each time they come in as the selected courses vary, and the price for that day will be given upon request.
Our first course was the beautifully presented Anatra Tonnata, which was made of thinly sliced duck breast, house made pickled tuna, white anchovies, capers and tonnata, a style of mayonnaise made with tuna. The idea of this dish was to pile one of each ingredient on the plate onto your fork, and combine all the flavours together in your mouth. We did this, and were surprised as to how much flavour was in each forkful. The duck breast was cooked perfectly and fell apart in your mouth, and the slimy, salty anchovies went well with the clean taste of the duck. The capers and tonnata added afinal layer of creamy and fresh flavour, finishing off a light and delicious entree.
At first this dish resembled a deconstructed bruschetta, and the flavours are very similar. Buffalo mozzarella, mixed tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and rocket pesto and crispy baked croutons covered in balsamic reduction create this filling salad. The key ingredient that makes this dish shine however is the tomato panacotta, a fluffy and sweet addition that is spooned throughout the dish and really lifts this salad to being more than tomatoes and mozzarella.
These hand-made ravioli are large and filled generously with wild boar ragu. The dish is served in spring pea puree and sprinkled with caramelised chilli and crispy duck skin, to give the dish three main flavour profiles of sweet (pea puree), salty (duck skin) and hot (chilli). Inside, the parcels are densely filled and the fresh spring puree is a welcome addition that stops the boar ragu from being too heavy.
Our final course was a whole spatchcock cooked in a marinade of paprika, garlic and herbs on a bed of bean salad and radacchio leaves. Poultry can sometimes be drying, and rely on the juices and sauces it’s served with. However, this bird was completely moist and tender through every bite, and the cripsy skin had a generous amount of delicious garlic and herbs to compliment the meat. The bean salad is prepared fresh in the kitchen, using only fresh beans the chefs have prepared themselves, rather than beans from a can. Though spatchcock can be fiddly to eat, the best way to approach it is to go all hands in. The chewy carrot tendrils on top were insanely tasty to eat too, and had a very enjoyable texture to munch on.
No meal, however big, is complete without dessert, so we went in for a bonus round with the Al Cioccolato e Peperoncino Crosata, a chocolate ricotta tart in spiced orange syrup and caramelised walnuts. Every single mouthful of this tart was savoured, as the chocolate tart was moist, chewy and had a hint of chilli to add some spice to the sweet. The tart was encased in a chocolate and orange crunchy base, and sitting in a home made orange syrup that was sugary but carried flavours of cinnamon, star anise and clove. Orange peel that had been infused in the syrup was scarttered around the plate, creating a bitter sweet garnish that could change the flavour of the tart when added to the fork.
Both the chefs at Amaro are from Italy and have only moved to Adelaide recently. bringing with them the flavours and modern recipes of Italy. As Ursula explained to us, the food we believe to be Italian, namely those heavy pastas and pizzas, aren’t really what people back in Italy are eating now. Our Italian communities in Australia immigrated here fifty or so years ago, and brought with them what Italians were eating back then. However, the food in Italy has evolved from those heavy dishes to the light meals that Amaro offers. Rather than rolling out of Amaro feeling bloated, we left full but energised. Amaro is the restaurant to try if you want high-calibre, hand-made food, located at a middle price point.
Amaro Ristorante is located at 173 Hutt Street, Adelaide.