A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published November 9th 2018
Pentolina is pasta perfection
The entrance to Pentolina is tucked away down a laneway, and, as I approached it, it felt a bit like I'd stumbled on a secret. Inside, though, the atmosphere is vibrant, the staff quick to greet me.
I decided to sit at the bar - with its pink marble surface and burgundy stools - and enjoy the view over the kitchen. It is easy to see from the kitchen operations that pasta is the champion here. The chef and sous chef were kept busy for much of the night simply keeping up with the pasta orders. It's easy to understand why; this is pasta with a pedigree. Head chef Matt Picone's father migrated to Australia from southern Italy's Puglia in 1960, bringing with him a love of food that Matt has inherited. A pivotal moment for Matt was a visit to iconic Melbourne restaurant Pelligrini's in the late 1990s. So taken was Matt with Pelligrini's that he approached the boss, gave him his phone number, and said, "here's my number if you're ever looking for someone". Matt started at Pelligrini's the following night!
With this sort of grounding, it's no surprise that Matt takes pasta very seriously. Pentolina's pasta - all vegan - is made fresh on the premises each morning.
Pentolina offers a $60 'feed me' menu, and that's what we tried when we visited. Offering 'chef's selection of fresh pasta dishes with appetisers, sides and desserts', this seemed like a good value way to try out the best that Pentolina has to offer - and that turned out to be the case.
Pentolina's menu is divided into 'small bites', 'entrees', 'pasta' and 'desserts'. From the entrees section, we were served the assortimento di salumi (house salumi (charcuterie) selection, squacquerone, pickles and grissini) ($24 if ordered on its own). As you can see from the photo, it's a generous serve, almost a meal on its own. It was certainly a positive start to the meal.
Assortimento di salumi - a meal in itself!
Perhaps the prettiest dish we tried, the fiore di zucchine (zucchini flowers with buffalo ricotta, fresh tomato gazpacho and vincotto) ($6 each) was also one of the tastiest. Instantly appealing on arrival, the freshness of this dish, and the subtle balance of flavours, made it a winner.
Fiore di zucchine - instantly appealing
Next up was the pulpo (charred octopus, nduja, kipfler potatoes, cime di rapa oil) ($22). This was a tender, perfectly cooked piece of octopus, cleverly paired with the nduja (spicy spreadable pork). This was possibly my favourite dish of the night. Delicious.
With stomachs already stretched, we moved onto the pasta courses. Two generous portions of pasta were served up: Dad's spaghetti vongole (with clams, parsley, garlic and white wine) ($28), and a special of the day, duck ragu parpadelle ($32). Both were a delight to eat, though I felt the scales tipped slightly in favour of the parpadelle. The duck had the complexity of flavours that can only be brought out through a slow cook and clever combination of ingredients. There was a slight sweetness to the meat, from orange juice, and a spiciness, from cinnamon. And the pasta, unsurprisingly, was perfect.
Duck ragu parpadelle
The 'feed me' menu of course includes desserts, and what could be more traditional than tiramisu and panna cotta (each $13)? It was clear that desserts are not an afterthought; each was masterfully prepared. The panna cotta had the perfect wobble, and a delightful creamy texture and was heaven on a plate. The tiramisu, also, was dessert perfection, right down to the Kahlua soaked layer at the bottom of the glass.
There is simply no way two of us could have got through the amount of food presented to us. 'Generous' is a word that readily springs to mind. But it certainly wasn't a case of 'quantity over quality'. Every dish was prepared with care. So, if you have a good appetite, I'd certainly recommend the 'feed me' menu.
Pentolina is also fully licensed, featuring an interesting list of cocktails, as well as Italian wines (sangiovese, pinot grigio and prosecco) and beer on tap.
Pentolina would be a great place to bring a group of friends, or work colleagues. They are offering a Christmas feast for $75 per person (which includes 'traditional Italian festive dishes'), or the $60 'feed me' menu is also available for groups. Short of time? There's also a $45 express two-course Christmas lunch, with your choice of appetisers and pasta, or pasta and dessert.
A great venue for a group or work Christmas meal
Next time I need some comfort food, and am craving pasta carbonara, I know where I'll be heading! Give Pentolina a try for authentic, house made pasta, but also a range of other delicious Italian inspired dishes.
Pentolina is located at 2/377 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. (The entrance is actually from Collins Way.)
It is open Monday to Saturday 12 noon – 10pm (closed Sunday).