Uccello has featured both Massimo Bianchi and Eugenio Riva behind the pass – talented chefs both – but we’re very pleased to see David Lovett keeping the wood-fire burning. You may have eaten his food at the short-lived-but-highly-awesome John and Peter Canteen at Carriageworks. Lovett’s brought his love of produce-driven Italian food up to Ivy’s poolside Italian restaurant.
It’s hard to think of a more picturesque lunching venue. You’re sitting on a plush, white banquette in a light-filled room looking out over the azure waters of ivy’s rooftop swimming pool where there may or may not be pretty gals and guys dangling their tanned legs, drinking cocktails in various states of chic undress. Only now when you’re looking on, you’re eating fresher, sharper, smokier.
‘Pinziminio con bagna cauda’ sees a pile of raw baby fennel, cucumber spears, radicchio, baby carrots and radishes with a sauce of smashed garlic, anchovies, butter and olive oil. Dip the raw veggies into the warm, garlicky emulsion for an instant palate whipping of salty, crunchy, raw, buttery and bitter.
Lovett’s pasta dishes are consistently on the money, if not a little too zealously seasoned. Tagliatelle con scampi sees strands of fresh pasta mixed through with hunks of the sweet shellfish (think of them like a really big prawn wearing fancy gloves – aka massive claws), tomato and enough marjoram to add that herbaceous floral quality without overpowering the dish.
The wood-fired oven is getting a real workout these days, too. There’s the individual wood-fired lasagne – the charred, smokiness tastes almost like it was buried under a campfire, helped along by the smoked mozzarella melted through the layers of beef ragu.
A roast Barossa chook is listed on the menu as a serving for two, but then it really depends on who you are and how much you can eat. For instance, we see one guy order – and eat – one all for himself. We struggle to eat more than a leg after a pasta entrée. But we’re pissy-pants Nancys. It’s a wonderful dish – especially with the side of wet, buttery polenta. We’d order it again, but either skip our entrées or share it around a table of four.
We’re not particularly inclined to share a yabba-dabba-doo sized crumbed veal cutlet with a squeeze of lemon, or for that matter, the Sacher cake. Here, a wedge of spongy chocolate cake is topped with a scoop of espresso gelato, roasted nectarine and a drizzle of caramel sauce. Somebody mash it up and feed it to us intravenously so we can have it in our sleep.
This is not a cheap venture, we grant you. That chook for two is $60, and that cutlet is $38. It’s not for every day, but you should do it at least once.