920 Lygon Street
Carlton North VIC 3054
Sileno: +61 3 9389 7000; Vino Bar: 9389 7070
Ahhh, the silly season is almost upon us. The work Christmas piss-ups have started, the Christmas shopping list just finished and the panettone ordered. Ah, yes, panettone. The delectable traditional Milanese fruit cake that is a ‘must have’ on any wog family’s table come Christmas time. While one can easily buy mass-produced panettone for $10 at any supermarket from as early as October, panettone purists will normally wait until the first week of December to score the proper thing from Enoteca Sileno, your one-stop shop for all your Christmas foodie needs. At Sileno, I am told that each panettone is baked in Milan at around September when the air starts to cool to give it a lovely airy texture. That, combined with the irresistible combination of fruit peels and spices along with a sourdough-like crust means that it’s worthy of being called ‘The King of Christmas Cakes.’
(At this point, I’m cussing myself for NOT taking photos of the rows of panettone to break this blog up. Oh well.)
From Italian red wines to torrone, from pastas to walls of panettone, the Sileno has it all. If you’re hardcore about your panettone, you wouldn’t bulk at spending up to $65 for a traditional Perbellini panettone, the finest of them all. Alternatively, the Gilber brand make them just as good. Plus, they offer flavours such as gianduja cream and pear and fig for those who are so over fruit peels. And to make panettone-shopping that much more difficult, there are half a dozen more brands to choose from. Sigh. Once you’ve made your choice and purchased your 1kg box of fruity, doughy and sugary goodness, head right over to the Enoteca Vino Bar for some well-deserved food and Italian wines.
It was a stormy Thursday afternoon when maitre’d Andrea Faraone found me hungry, tired and looking for a good quality meal. After seating me by the window and pouring me a glass of water, he left me with the lunch menu. Not long after I decided on a pasta with red mullet dish, I asked him to recommend me a glass of wine.
He came back with a bunch of whites for me to sample, before I settled on glass of 2009 Di Lenardio Pinot Grigio ($10), a crisp, clean wine with bold fruity notes and a long, lasting finish.
My main: trofie, red mullet, Sicilian black olives, cacciucco ($24). I’m not kidding when I say that this was one of the best pasta mains I’ve had in quite some time. For one thing, eating the trofie pasta was quite an experience. Made with flour, water and no eggs, the result is a pasta that is firm and springy to the bite; it was like a mini pogo stick married a Twistie. The sauce was a cacciucco, an Italian fish stew that’s full of tomato-y and seafood-y goodness which worked well with the pasta, the olives and the lightly pan-fried red mullet pieces. Bellissimo.
My dessert: the panettone bread and butter pudding ($8). Previously a regular star in the Vino Bar’s December menu, I was told by Andrea that they got rid of it from the menu this year. This was a shame because it was just too damn terrific. If you happen to be at Vino Bar in December though, kindly ask them if they could make it for you. If you begged hard enough, smiled wide enough and offered a 50% tip (hah), then you might be so lucky. I loved how they took a slice of Gilber panettone and effortlessly merged it with a luscious bread and butter pudding, topped it with a dollop of cream and fresh blueberries to make the most fantastic Christmas dessert. Sigh. Now if only mergers were THIS successful (Hawthorn and Melbourne, I’m looking at you…)
Fantastic service, fantastic food and best of all, the Sileno only two steps to your right for some post-lunch shopping, what more could you want?! …. hmmmm, a lifetime’s supply of panettone, for starters…