Canberra’s hospitality powerhouse, CoCu Group has thrown open the patio doors of their traditional Italian restaurant, Provini. Inspired by ‘Nonna’s house’ they promise real Italian hospitality and traditional Italian fare that will make you feel right at home.
The entrance to the venue mimics a traditional Italian patio, with red brick walls, lace draped windows, marble table tops and wicker furniture that will take you straight to the streets of Firenze. Although a bit too cold to enjoy this time of year, I imagine this space coming to life in the warmer months where I for one will spend afternoons drinking Aperol Spritz’s and watching the world go by.
Tuesday just gone was the soft opening, which I had the honour of attending. A positively chilly Canberra winter night, hungry guests piled into Nonna’s and were quickly whisked away to cosy tables in the many cosy areas.
The interior sets the scene for what is to come – Floors dressed in Italian inspired printed carpet, walnut paneling creeping the walls and ornate Renaissance-style paintings offering the finishing touch. Most venues don’t pay nearly enough attention to amenities but Provini continue their well-thought and perfectly executed interior design to every hidden corner.
I especially love the private dining room – perfect for intimate birthday parties, teeny wedding receptions or if you have an exceptionally large family.
Designed to provide authentic Italian hospitality, the menu is completely traditional with a few tiny modern twists only the most hard nosed Italians would notice.
Executive Chef, Wayne Alger has done the ground work, taking an extended trip to Italy (how do we get his job?) to experience first hand the unique Italian cooking techniques and traditional flavours to bring right to your plate.
The Provini kitchen also boasts its own Neapolitan Pizziolo (pizza chef) Goivanni, who is the genius behind the authentic Italian pizza, all made in their wood fire oven.
The wine menu includes Provini’s own range of house white and red blends (served by the glass or caraffe). Created exclusively for Provini, the wines were produced by local winemakers Eden Road and the Provini owners and management team, including Head Sommelier Peter Bell. The end result is a Pinot Gris and Chardonnay mix for the white, and a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Nebbiolo mix for the red; both with a unique taste and bold flavour that is distinctly Provini.
Co-founder Ivan, passionately explains the inspiration behind the house blends, “the house wine should always be the best on the menu, just like in Italy”. Being a self confessed wine snob, I can attest that both are stellar. You could easily sink a caraffe or two over your meal. Italian food does beg to be enjoyed with good wine after all.
Once cosy in your corner table, we start to peruse the menu. We ordered the wood roasted pork and veal polpette, sugo with charred bread ($18), marinated octopus, potato, herb salad ($17) and caprese salad ($12) for entree, shared the gnocchi alla sorrentina ($25) and tagliatelle al nero di seppia ($29) for second course, followed by a margharita pizza ($21), Provini pizza (ham, soppressa, peppers and chilli) ($24), and spatchcock cacciatore with toasted fregola ($27) for main.
The polpette’s were an absolute winner, the meatballs tender and the tomato sugo rich, acidic yet subtly sweet. Every morsel of the charred bread was used to sop up the delicious sauce.
The octopus dish is a light summer salad with a fresh tangy dressing. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, not too hard and not too soft, and the octopus the right amount of chewy.
The caprese wasn’t far behind with perfectly creamy buffalo and tasty tomatoes. Not quite the same as the tomatoes we ate in Italy, but who’s being picky?
The gnocchi! Oh the gnocchi! Cooked to absolute perfection, it was like eating fluffy light clouds. The tomato sugo was subtle and not overpowering with chunks of gooey mozeralla in almost every bite.
The tagliatelle was a beautiful mix of squid ink pasta, prawns, pippies, chilli and tomato. The pasta was al dente, a barely there sauce to not take away from the fresh seafood. A delightful summer dish!
The pizzas were as good as I hoped they would be, the base was light and fluffy, the toppings simple and fresh, the centres a touch soupy.
You can be forgiven for being hesitant to order the cacciatore. A dish that’s been done badly one too many times, I was delighted with what came out. The spatchcock had a rich, gamey flavour with a rich tomato and olive sauce. The toasted fregola offered a savoury bite that cut through the acidic tomato perfectly.
The meal ended with tiramisu ($14) and a macchiato. The tiramisu has a slight twist with the biscuit base soaked in an aniseed liqueur, which if I’m being honest, is not my preference but tasty nonetheless.
Sadly I didn’t want to ruin the relaxing vibe of opening night with camera equipment and startling flashes, so I don’t have images of all the food I got to try. You will just have to go find out for yourself!
With doors now open to the public, I suggest you make the trip to Provini pronto!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Perfect for: A lazy alfresco lunch or casual or cosy traditional dinner.
Address: 50 Bunda Street, Canberra City
Open: Lunch: Sun – Fri 12pm – 2:30pm, Dinner: Sun – Mon 5:30 until late
Phone: 02 6154 9720
Get them on: Facebook
Don’t forget to hashtag #dinewiththemacadames and #canberrawiththemacadames if you go to this restaurant, we love to see you exploring Canberra.
If you like Provini, you might also like eightysix in Braddon.
Anisa – The Macadames. xx