99 High St
Kew, VIC 3101
Guy Grossi is basically the father of Italian cuisine in Melbourne, but given he usually likes hanging out in the city, it was a surprise to everyone when he decided to extend his empire out to the suburbs, to sleepy Kew of all places. But I guess when you’re this famous, you can pretty much open anywhere and trust that people will come flocking (guilty). Taking over the old Clifton Hotel pub, Grossi polishes it up into Osteria Puttanesca – a family-friendly Italian restaurant that boasts some serious gourmet cred. Shame the service was pretty rubbish the day we went (the most noteworthy was when they didn’t bring us the bill, so we tried to go up to the counter to pay, but they wouldn’t let us until we walked all the way back to stand next to our table like naughty children), though hopefully it’s just some teething issues. Still, if I lived in the area, I would be glad to have Osteria Puttanesca around the corner for everything from a quick weeknight bite to Sunday dinner with the family.
Rating: 14/20 – alas, earwax service.
Best dish: pizza diavola. and tableside tiramisu.
Calamari Fritti ($28) is an easy win, and these were lightly dusted in semolina and fried until just-tender. The side of fried zucchini was unexpected, and adds a little je ne sais quoi.
Stagionato Alla Puttanesca ($32) is the first nod to the restaurant’s namesake. It takes the familiar flavours, and transposes them against the firm, clean backdrop of kingfish sashimi. It’s packs a bright, salty punch, rounded out with just a hint of heat.
The Caponata Alla Siciliana ($22) came highly recommended by our waitress. It’s a seductively rich stew of summer vegetables, the eggplant and capsicum languishing into a pool of olive oil, propped up by the turpentine crisp of pine nuts.
I’ve read that the pizza, not the pasta is a highlight here, and the Diavola Pizza ($26) made a strong case. Against a light, chewy base, the bold toppings of peppery salami, salty nduja, and briny olives were especially gutsy.
The Cotoletta ($29) comes out thick and juicy, coated with a robust crumb and served with a refreshingly bitter cabbage salad. Have it as-is with a squeeze of lemon, or pay a few more dollars to parma it up.
The Tiramisu ($15) went from maybe to must-have once we saw it being doled out from an enormous bowl, table-side. As you’d expect, this is utterly perfect – just the right balance of airy cream, tender sponge, and bitter espresso.
The Crema Fritta ($15) was a last minute add on, and what a stroke of luck that was. Displaying the same skill with the fryer as they did with the cotoletta, the thick, aromatic custard was contrasted by a beautifully crisp shell. With the accompaniment of a light cinnamon ice cream, this has distinctly festive vibes.