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Osteria Sanso Restaurant

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by Karen Ross (subscribe)
I love slow travel, slow food and discovering new adventures and delicious regional food in new locations. I'm on an indulgent quest and I'd love you to follow at
Published December 26th 2018
A Taste of Tuscany in Kanmantoo
If someone had told me I'd be spending the evening of a rather significant birthday in Kanmantoo, I'd have told them not to be ridiculous. That's exactly what happened though, due to a serendipitous comment from a friend.

I'd been lamenting the fact that few restaurants near my home on the Fleurieu Peninsula are open on a Wednesday evening and I was now far too old to drive to Adelaide and back for my mid-week birthday celebration. 'Why not go to Kanmantoo?' asked my friend.

The small town of Kanmantoo, population around 700, is 50km south-east of Adelaide, and quite close to Nairne. The town is famous for its long history of copper mining, dating back to 1846. These days it's also known for its very special Italian restaurant known as Osteria Sanso.

Osteria Sanso
Osteria Sanso

The restaurant is on the main street in Kanmantoo, opposite the Kanmantoo Hall which was built in 1864. The restaurant is housed in a building dating back to 1848. Plenty of history here.

Tony Sanso's restaurant
Tony Sanso's restaurant

There's off-street parking in a leafy garden space right outside a couple of cute cottages.

The cottages are part of a package involving Osteria Sanso. For $300 on a weeknight, you can enjoy a three-course meal for yourself and a friend or partner, one night's accommodation in a cottage and a continental breakfast.

Off the main street in Kanmantoo
Off the main street in Kanmantoo

We arrived at our cottage in the late afternoon to settle in and go for a walk before dinner. The cottage was spacious with a small lounge area, en-suite bathroom and a comfy bed with crisp, white sheets.

Cottage accomodation
Cottage accomodation

The small but adequate kitchen area was stocked with cereals, fresh bread, Hahndorf honey and jams but alas no coffee machine. I've become spoilt in my travels in this last decade and now I expect a coffee machine in my hotel room. I'd rather poke sticks in my eyes than open a packet of cremated coffee. I took a deep breath and had a quiet word to myself; 'get over it, at least there's nice teabags'.

Breakfast provisions
Breakfast provisions

We'd also brought along a nice bottle of pre-dinner wine, so we enjoyed a drink on our balcony listening to the birds. It helped me get over the coffee issue.

We thought we might be the only customers at the restaurant that evening. It was a Wednesday after all and we were a long way from a major town. The restaurant owner, Tony Sanso, however, is held in high esteem by all he has cooked for during his long and illustrious career. Needless to say, there were many other diners enjoying Tony's authentic Tuscan-style fare that night.

Inside Osteria Sanso
Inside Osteria Sanso

Our package allowed us to choose anything from the menu with no restrictions. I chose a starter from the daily specials; fresh sea scallops cooked in white wine. Divine.

Sanso Scallops
Sanso Scallops

My husband claimed his prawn starter was the pick of the evening and I must admit the prawn he donated to me tasted luscious.

Prawn starter at Osteria Sanso
Prawn starter at Osteria Sanso

He chose 'Maccheroni al Ragu', (tube pasta with a Tuscan meat sauce) while I chose 'Agnolotti alla Vegetariana' (a housemade pasta with ricotta cheese & spinach filling) for our main course. Sides were also included in our package, so we chose a sautéed mushroom dish and a rocket salad. A second bottle of wine is mandatory for significant birthdays, so we ordered a Tuscan red to enjoy with the pasta.

A Tuscan Red at Osteria Sanso
A Tuscan Red at Osteria Sanso

I didn't really need dessert but it was my happy birthday and it was included in our generous package, so of course, I indulged. I'd had a dessert course of Vin Santo and almond biscuits in Tuscany a few years ago. It's a bit like having a liqueur as well as a dessert, so I happily dipped the biscuits and sipped the sweet wine. Oh yes, there was a spoonful or so of my husband's tiramisu involved also.

Vin Santo
Vin Santo

Our meal was sublime; fresh, flavoursome and authentic. I was transported back to Tuscany in my mind for a moment there. That may have been due to the extra wine. It was after dinner that the highlight of the evening presented itself in the form of Tony Sanso himself. He sat with us and chatted, in his softly spoken manner, about his life, his family and career.

Now 81 years old, Tony came to Australia in 1964 after cooking for many notables in Paris and London. He ran a string of restaurants around Adelaide over the following five decades.

My husband is a drummer with jazz music in his ancestry and a chord was struck immediately when Tony realised he had known my late father-in-law Billy. As part of the Adelaide 'furniture' in the late 1960's and 70's Tony knew all the musos, foodies and larger-than-life characters back in the day. Many colourful stories ensued as the two men bonded over glasses of grappa.

With Tony Sanso
Tony Sanso

It was a delightful birthday evening for me, followed by a comfy night's sleep in the cottage. And I was home by 10am drinking good coffee.

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Why? Delectable Tuscan-style food.
When: Lunches Wednesday to Sunday Dinners: Wednesday to Saturday Open Monday Public Holiday's Lunch Only
Phone: (08) 8538 5008
Where: Lot 81 Princess Hwy, Kanmantoo SA 5252
Cost: Main courses around $25
Your Comment
Hello Karen.My late uncle Paul Thomas was a professional saxophonist from Sydney,but born and bred in South Aust.He played with Billy many times.I met Billy on several occasions and enjoyed his drumming at the Cellar in Twin Street.He was an excellent drummer and one of the very best in Aust.I too have met Tony and talked about Jazz and eaten a few times at his Osteria. I found it to be a pleasant place to dine and relax.Nice photo of you both.Buon Anno/Happy New Year.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 291 days ago
Sounds like you had a great birthday outing Karen. I was also surprised by this quaint restaurant in the middle of nowhere and Tony's popularity that draws people to eat there. He's a very friendly host. We thoroughly enjoyed our Osteria Sanso dinner.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4069) 183 days ago
Foodi Photoh Classie
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