261 Clarendon Street
South Melbourne VIC 3205
+61 3 9696 3886
Disclaimer: Libby and Jen dined as guests of Etto and Grapevine PR.
So it’s bloody freezing in Melbourne at the moment and the meathead sales assistant at Sporty’s Warehouse thinks that I need to eat more carbs to bulk up. Solution? Eat several bowls of pasta at the newest pasta bar in town, of course!
Jen and I were long overdue for a Sunday lunch catch-up so when Cynthia from Grapevine PR emailed me a $50 voucher to use at Etto I convinced Jen that we HAD to try this pasta bar. And being the diplomatic person she is (hey, she’s a high school teacher after all), she happily agreed.
The name ‘Etto’ refers to the Italian measurement of weight that’s frequently used in Italian cooking (roughly 100 grams), though a Google search also told me that it’s the name of some Brazilian soccer player. Etto (the restaurant, not the soccer player) is comfortably nestled in front of a shopping centre on Clarendon Street, which I thought was a bit of an odd location for an eatery with slightly hipster-ish undertones if their colourful retro-style website is anything to go by. Etto is all about serving ‘Italian street pasta’ using the freshest local produce from South Melbourne market nearby and of course, handmade pastas.
It wasn’t terribly busy when we rocked up at 1pm that Sunday afternoon so I happily went straight to the counter to order my stuff. Jen and I settled on three different pasta dishes to nibble on and a drink each. The dude at the counter told us that we still had $5 left to use on the voucher and asked if we could like him to give me back $5 in cash. Well, wow, it’s not often something like this happens. The Chinese in me would have just taken the cash but my growling stomach prevailed so I decided to throw the Etto salad in the order as well. The salad was $11 so I did say that I’d be happy to pay the extra $6 but the ever-so-lovely guy said that he’d happily call it even. Score.
This is my retro limonata, which tasted very much like a Solo. Meanwhile Jen ordered an Emma & Tom’s cloudy apple juice which they totally forgot about until halfway through our meal. Not a big deal though, plus they were genuine in their apology.
Let the carb-loading begin!
This is our Etto salad ($11). It was a tasty combination of prosciutto, salami, bocconcini, cherry tomato, olives, herb breadcrumbs and Chardonnay dressing. What’s a Chardonnay dressing, you say? Well, it’s a dressing made with Chardonnay vinegar and ingredients such as Dijon mustard and oil can be added to it. It’s tastes a bit like balsamic vinegar but not as piquant. Plus, I was glad that I didn’t taste any of that awful oak-yness that you get when drinking proper Chardonnay. I loved everything about this salad from the cold meats to the fresh tomatoes and the crunchy herb breadcrumbs.
This was our spinach tagliatelle with wagyu polpette ($12).
The polpette were essentially mini wagyu meatballs that were hidden underneath all that slippery pasta goodness. The tomato-based sauce was then topped with a generous dose of salsa verde and crunchy herb breadcrumbs. It was a good dish, which would have been better if the pasta didn’t err on the soggy side. From reading through reviews on Google and Urbanspoon, Etto did start off using al dente pasta but a couple of morons complained that they were ‘too hard’ so they tried to cater to their tastes by making their pastas softer.
While I appreciated the fact that Etto does taste customer feedback very seriously, I don’t think that they should just make pasta the way it SHOULD be: al dente. Who cares what a few philistines think?!
Funnily enough, the pappardelle in the, well, pappardelle with spicy Italian sausage ($12) was a LOT better. It was al dente all over, which made me very happy. The sauce, another tomato-based one, had bits of free-range pork sausage mixed in it and lots fresh basil pesto.
Mamma mia, it was beautiful! Even Jen, who normally doesn’t love pastas that are too saucy, thought this was fantastic.
Our final dish was the Black Angus beef ravioli with prosciutto and Sicilian pesto ($11.50). Now I wasn’t sure what the difference was between normal basil pesto and a ‘Sicilian pesto’ – and I certainly couldn’t taste the difference – but it didn’t matter for this was another excellent dish. The sauce was a little bit lighter than the first two (well, it had to be because we were pairing it with ravioli) but it was by no means less tasty. We loved the simple but lovely combination of cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic and baby spinach that will make us earn for spring through what I reckon would be a horrid, horrid winter.
The photos might lie, but the plates we actually small (so what they said about the camera adding a few pounds must be true…). We initially looked at them and cockily thought that we’d be able to finish them off (especially Jen who hadn’t had breakfast that morning) but in the end, we ended up taking a cute doggy box each home.
Despite the slightly soggy spinach tagliatelle, we thought the food at Etto was fantastic. A shopping centre on Clarendon Street is an odd place to plonk a pasta bar but the warm-as-your-nanna friendly staff and welcoming environment, and not to mention beautiful food, makes it a place that you’d want to return to. I am definitely keen to give some other dishes a go – I especially have my eye on the gluten-free pasta made with quinoa and amaranth served with black truffle and salami sauce. Mmmmm.