Scopri – Brilliant BYO Italian

For those of you haven’t met me yet – there’s a questions I always ask people:   “What’s your favourite restaurant?”    You never know you’re going to hear, and you might just find a real gem in the mix.  I get varied responses; some people can’t settle on one, and want to give me at least 3.  Others struggle to answer and need time to think about it.  Sometimes people give the same answer as I would.  I like them straight away.  There are times that people give me restaurants that I’m ‘ho-hum’ about.  Then sometimes, although it’s pretty rare, people give me an answer – and I have no idea what they’re talking about. 

This was the case the other day, after catching up with an old work colleague – I asked the question.  He answered: Scopri.  I looked at him blankly.  “I’ve… never heard of it…?”  So, after mispronouncing the name “Scotary, Scotri…?”  He spelled it out for me…   Scopri.  It’s a great little Italian place on Nicholson Street.  The food is great, it’s got a good ambience… and the best thing… (he paused for dramatic effect)… it’s BYO. 

Now, as you and I both know, great BYO places are hard to find. And with the dollar value of the beverage component of a dinner out easily matching the food component – it was a compelling seed that he planted in my head.   The thought was so compelling that, one Saturday night – after Andrew had to work late resulting in cancelling our dinner plans in Kew,  he was desperately suggesting restaurants that we could go to instead. I said:  Try Scopri.  So he called, and as luck would have it – they had a spot.

Scopri is the new name for the restaurant formerly known as Arrivederci.  I never visited it under its former name, but had heard good things.  The chef, Salvatore Caccioppoli is the same, but he has also done stints at Svago and The Grand in the meantime.  According to the spiel on the website, he has also cooked at a number of Michelin starred restaurants in Italy.  Hello!

We walked into this fairly non-descript building on non-sexy Nicholson Street – and were transported into an ambient, warm, and well fit out restaurant with linen tablecloths, polished floor boards, and welcoming staff.  We took with us an 11 year old Shadowfax One Eye Shiraz from Heathcote that had been embargoed, waiting for that great occasion. A recent audit of the cellar had revealed that it was probably past its best drinking date – so it was time to quaff.  This seemed occasion enough.   The wine was lovingly decanted for us, and after we had enjoyed a little aperitif, was ready for pouring. 

Bread and Olive Oil

The first thing we enjoyed was the bread.  This bread is amazing – it’s baked onsite with a sourdough starter that was first made a couple of years ago.  It’s a beautiful bread – dense but moist, with the crunchiest crust ever.  It was delicious with the olive oil provided, and we had to hold ourselves back knowing we had some “comfort” dishes on the way.

Risotto con salsiccia, raddichio and provola

For my primi, I ordered the risotto.  My first mouthful was a revelation – so creamy and flavoursome, and seasoned well. It was a very loose style of risotto, which is my favourite.  It had been topped with some smoked provola.  The sausage had been finely distributed throughout the risotto, and the radicchio had been finely sliced.  Each mouthful was delicious, creamy and beautiful.

Fettucine al ragu lacano

Andrew had the fettucine with the ragu lucano – which is a traditional 3 meat sauce of lamb, pork and veal.  The fettucine was beautifully hand made, the perfect thickness – it allowed the meat sauce to sing.  I think it was the better of the two dishes – but both of them were so brilliant, it didn’t matter.

Braised beef cheek, caramelised onions and potato with parsley mash

Forgive me for not listing the Italian name, but this was one of the specials – and both Andrew and I ordered it because it sounded divine.  And divine it was.  The meat was so tender, we didn’t need a knife – it just fell apart with a gentle push of our forks.  The sauce was rich and unctuous, and the parsley mash was fantastic.  It took me by surprise at first – because we wre not expecting green mash – but I loved the fresh herbaceous zing it gave to the meal.  Absolutely delicious.

We were beat… I flirted with the dessert menu but there was no pannacotta there – so it was an easy decision to forego the sweet stuff.  We were very pleasantly full, and thrilled to have found a fantastic Italian restaurant serving such high quality food.  This is one of those places I have been raving about, ever since “discovering” it!  Absolutely fabulous food, great service, and… (pause for dramatic effect)… it’s BYO.  Salute.

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