A collaboration, that’s amore!

You want a pop-up? This is a dream pop-up!

Mixing the Finnish magic of Mr Paci himself, Pasi Petanen, with the Italian rootstock skills of sommelier Giorgio de Maria – this is something I have to try. No wonder the whole month has sold out immediately. Bring on some wild creativity!

The room at Cafe Mecca rocks a mildly distressed industrial vibe, huge high ceilings with black and white chequerboard floors. The distressed white walls and the comfy seating make it feel very welcoming. Not to mention the ebullient Giorgio at the front door. There’s a small wait for our table so we get to sit in the tiny upstairs balcony watching over all the diners. Every table we see below looks happy and engaged, theres a real buzz of excitement, can’t wait to get started.

I’m instantly obsessed with the fermented carrots, so vibrantly intense! And ‘fresh out of the oven’ sourdough in a paper bag is like a warm hug from the kitchen. And these aren’t even on the menu!

amuse bouche of fermented carrots
amuse bouche of fermented carrots

The menu and matching

I’m getting the feeling that this menu is taking no prisoners, the wine matches too. Avocado, oyster, parsley has much more of a flavour punch that I expect, especially the succulent oysters, quartered and very tasty. The matching 2015 Barraco Vignamarre grillo from Sicilia is equally unexpected, a great match with the dish.

avocado, oysters, parsley paired with a 2015 Barraco Vignamarre grillo, Sicilia
avocado, oysters, parsley paired with a 2015 Barraco Vignamarre grillo, Sicilia

Smoked Bonito is even more interesting and not at all what I am expecting. There’s sourdough croutons, yellow & red peppers, chives and onion, initially hiding the beautiful slices of bonito, the flavour intensified by the smoking. The 2015 Terpin pinot grigio is another inspired match.

smoked bonito panzanella with 2015 Terpin Pinot grigio, Friuli
smoked bonito panzanella with 2015 Terpin Pinot grigio, Friuli

Again the description of sour dough strozzapreti provides me with something I am not expecting. The strozzapretti is actually semolina with a bit of sourdough sauce, gorgeous parmigiano reggiano and the tang of pear. It is easy to think this is the quieter dish of the menu, but it’s simplicity sings with flavour and warmth, accompanied by the Two Metre Tall poire cider from Tasmania, a perfect match.

Sour dough strozzapreti with parmigiano reggiano and pear with two metre tall poir cider, Tasmania
Sour dough strozzapreti with parmigiano reggiano and pear with two metre tall poir cider, Tasmania

When the menu says ‘squid rice’, this bowl is not what I’m thinking. This bowl is pureed squid, squid ink and rice, a thick brown sauce like never before.  It’s sprinkled with hazelnuts and draped with wafer thin lardo.  Pureed squid flavour is hard to describe, but oh so moreish, add the crunch of nuts and the texture of lardo, close your eyes and inhale. It’s delicious. Our match is 2016 Farnea Ombra Turbo Cabernet Merlot Pataresca from Veneto

Squid rice, hazelnut, lardo, with 2016 Farnea Ombra Turbo Cabernet Merlot Pataresca, Veneto
Squid rice, hazelnut, lardo, with 2016 Farnea Ombra Turbo Cabernet Merlot Pataresca, Veneto

The Red Dessert

Here’s an idea – take the red fruits, the figs, the plums and the rhubarb, and mix with sour cream and liquorice. A dessert that is delicious but not overly sweet, and so wonderfully unusual. The 2015 Le Coste le primeur aleatico from Lazio is another wonderful match.

Fig, plum, rhubarb, sour cream and liquorice with 2015 Le Coste le primeur aleatico, Lazio
Fig, plum, rhubarb, sour cream and liquorice with 2015 Le Coste le primeur aleatico, Lazio
Week 1 menu at Thats Amore, Alexandria
Week 1 menu at Thats Amore, Alexandria
Wonderfully eclectic italian wine list at Thats Amore
Wonderfully eclectic italian wine list at Thats Amore

It’s a wonderfully fun night, an expectation of originality that has not disappointed. It’s so good that we are the second last to leave, leaving a now empty expanse of wonderful floors and soaring ceilings, intense flavours and original drink matches. we arrive 8:30, leave at midnight. The final touch, I kid you not, they are playing That’s Amore in the kitchen as we leave. Love, just love.

Mecca Cafe, Alexandria, the home of That’s Amore for March
Mecca Cafe, Alexandria, the home of That’s Amore for March
Mecca Cafe, Alexandria, the home of That’s Amore for March
Mecca Cafe, Alexandria, the home of That’s Amore for March
view when you’re the last to leave dinner at That’s Amore
view when you’re the last to leave dinner at That’s Amore

Best Bits: the originality, the experimenting, the focus on intensity of flavour, the delightful sommelier

Worst Bits: It only lasts to the end of March and theres a long wait list

Where am I: Mecca, 26 Bourke Rd, Alexandria, NSW 2015

 

Vicki P Written by:

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