The Port has undergone some revamping over the past few years thanks to Renewal SA. When driving through the Port, it is not hard to see the progress already made. With the painstaking restoration of previously decrepit historic buildings and the introduction of new youth and community-orientated businesses, Port Adelaide is well on its way to becoming Adelaide’s new hipster hub and here at The Adelaidian we welcome the changes.
We were offered the opportunity to head down there to check out the new site of Carmine & Co. and have a mega carb blow out at the same time, so naturally we jumped at the chance. Carmine & Co. (previously known as Carmine’s Restaurant) is a Port Adelaide institution having been a family business for over twenty years.
Walking in to the new brand new restaurant really continues the vibe of driving in to Port Adelaide; that old meets new, tradition meets modernity. The use of levels within the building, natural light and a brick archway that led to a courtyard all made the space look massive. Though big, the space still feels homely and welcoming, partly due to the neutral warming colour scheme and exposed brick, but mainly due to the friendly greeting from the staff.
Dinner was to be served on the balcony level, which gives a view of the restaurant floor below. Looking at the menu offered it was clear no one would be leaving hungry. Three appetisers, three entrees, three mains and a dessert had us happy we wore non-restrictive outfits.
We started with antipasto which was arancini stuffed with bolognese and eggplant parmigana matched with a 2013 Fantini Sangiovese. The eggplant parmigiana was the stand out dish of the selection as the eggplant was twice cooked, had a pleasant texture and was covered in a rich and flavoursome sauce.
Entrees were a medley of delicious pasta dishes. The first pasta was a linguine with Morton Bay bugs that saw the bugs shelled and tossed through home made linguini with a fresh tomato and white wine sauce. The pasta had a beautifully chewy texture that can only be achieved through being home made. The chewiness complemented the softness of the bug flesh and really allowed the bug to shine through rather than be lost in a sea of linguini. The tomatoes and white wine added perfect acidity, lighting the dish.
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni was served with a rose sauce. The spinach and ricotta interior was denser than we were expecting which enabled the cannelloni to remain intact when sitting on the plate. Whilst the texture was dense, the flavour was light and the dish was not overly filling.
If you order one dish at Carmine & Co., let it be the spaghetti and meatballs. This is honestly the stuff food dreams are made of. The meatballs feature a combination of pork and veal and were so light they could be cut with a fork. The sauce was truly the holy grail of napolitana sauces, rich and full of herbs with the perfect viscosity that allowed it to coat each strand of the pasta entirely.
The pasta dishes were washed down with a 2013 Pertaringa Merlot (Adelaide hills). It was a perfect match with herbaceous notes and a slight acidity at the end.
Carmine’s steak was rib eye chargrilled to rare (so happy not to see steak sacrilege with over cooking) and topped with sautéed vegetables and a house red wine glaze which takes 3 days to prepare. Three days of preparation results in an incredibly flavoursome meaty glaze, not sticky or overpowering as seen in other establishments.
The stuffed calamari was cooked in a homemade tomato sauce. The stuffing was delicious and the sauce rich with fresh sun-ripened tomato flavour but unfortunately the squid was slightly overcooked which made it a tad chewy and hard to cut.
Unanimously voted as a favourite by the table was the pollo pistachio. Juicy Maryland chicken fillet stuffed with a medley of herbs and cheese was baked to perfection, wrapped in pancetta and finished with a creamy pistachio sauce. It really set us in to food coma mode.
Our mains were paired with a heavy 2009 Signatures Wines Barossa Valley Shiraz.
No matter how big the food coma, there is always room for dessert! Half the table received the tiramisu and the other half zeppole. Friendly neighbour food thievery came in to play and in the end we got to try both. The tiramisu was beautifully creamy and had the biscuits soaked in just enough coffee and liquor to permeate the flavour in to the dish but not leave a soggy mess.
Zeppole are Italian doughnuts traditionally covered in powdered sugar and these were astounding. The Carmine & Co. style came dusted lightly with sugar and were served with vanilla gelato and, most impressively, a Strega sauce. For those of you not familiar with Strega it is an itailan herbal liquor that will blow your head off when drunk straight (40% alcohol) but in this sauce the flavour had been subdued enough to mask booze and really let the beautiful herbal characters come though. The flavour was similar to lemon balm with notes of peppermint and saffron.
At one point in the evening when addressing us the chef, Nonna Vicki said, “Its all up here,” pointing at her head, “but I cook from here.” pointing at her heart, and you can tell. Each dish was presented with the care and love of a Nonna feeding her family and for one night we were lucky enough to sit at the family table.
Photography by Anthony Reninger