Restaurant Review: Fugazzi
I was recently asked if I had to choose a death row meal served in a restaurant in Adelaide, what would it be? A dish. No substitutions.
After some serious thought and quite a bit of internal turmoil, I finally came up with an answer: Nido’s ricotta with black pepper, honey, and gnocco fritto. They are the simplest dishes, but they are pure magic. You start with the gnocco fritto (Italian for delicious baked soft bread), which you tear apart and dip in a pool of whipped ricotta and honey. It’s sweet and savory and salty, with a decent kick of freshly cracked black pepper. And you can use your hands. Why use cutlery for your last meal?
Unsurprisingly, this carby delight hails from Emilia-Romagna in Italy, a region better known for its Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Mortadella Bologna. If this were my last meal on Earth, I’d also demand all three treats as side dishes.
I’ve eaten this Nido dish countless times since local culinary celebrities Laura Sharrad (Masterchef fame) and her chef Max took over The Pot site in Hyde Park; I was thrilled to see it on the snacks menu of their second location end up when it opened last year.
And here we are in Rigoni’s former (unrecognizable) restaurant space on Leigh Street, now Fugazzi signed, sitting at the best table in the house (we’re told) to discover what else they’ve made than ricotta.
The Italian influence is everywhere, from bars and marble-topped tables to the central banquet bench, covered in velvet above to mimic the shape of a Bottega server; of course, it flows through the Fugazzi menu, unashamedly, but for a few ingredients borrowed from other cuisines.
Yuzu is one of the foreigners, a trendy Asian addition that seems to be popping up everywhere, especially in Western dishes. It combines white balsamic vinegar to create a mignonette drizzled over four Pacific oysters. These may seem like they’ve been shelled for a while, but this is forgiven when the sweet, tangy, and slightly bitter sauce hits my lips (I only eat oysters with yuzu now, thanks.)
An artful plating comes into play with a salmon crudo beautifully presented, perhaps a small school of these Atlantic giants swimming in formation across the dish. A herbaceous oil defies the emulsion as it collects on a buttermilk base beneath the twisted strips of fish. Finely sliced and pickled zucchini has a buttery flavor with a delicate crunch that adds just the slightest texture to every bite. Fresh dill sprigs give their grassy, tangy flavor, and lightly toasted sesame seeds offer a hint of umami and smoke – but the combined flavors of all the ingredients together set this crudo apart many others before it.
The inspiration for the next bite comes from a strange place: the cupboard just above the toaster. Listed as “Roman Vegemite,” these are soldiers of buttered toast topped with anchovies and small lemon slices. The connection is made when you bite into it – that familiar salty, malty, and yeasty taste is close enough to the original that you’ll forget you’re eating fish.
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Traditionally made as a cutlet to eat with your fingers, lamb “scottadito” is served instead as skewers of the layered backstrap. Cooked to a lovely sear on the outside while still pink and juicy in the middle, these are little powerhouses packed with flavor and a hefty dose of spice thanks to a chili-infused sauce poured on top. We wish we had ordered more. But with pasta arriving next and the pasta queen of TV in the house – albeit now heading the Fugazzi and Nido service teams – there’s no time to wait.
Duck and mortadella are finely chopped and stuffed into crescent-shaped pasta, made by someone who certainly knows their dough (or maybe trained by Sharrad himself). The robust cushions are al dente with a perfectly silky soft exterior, and the filling is tender and tasteful. But the sticky, syrupy duck and black vinegar sauce is the real hero here: insane.
Finally, Fugazzi’s spatchcock may seem like a typical baby casserole, but we dig deeper to discover more. I can’t recall ever referring to a dissected poultry dish as elegant, but here we are. Crispy skinned slices of succulent birds glisten in their juices under scattered curry leaves, fried until light and crispy. Further on, a sweetcorn puree hides that is more of a sauce: it has a spicy flavor, supported by the slightest hint of curry and a defined sweet-salt balance. It’s another seemingly simple dish imaginatively presented with a wonderful flavor combination that will be hard to forget.
This cuisine is creative and innovative, remaining authentic to typically humble Italian ingredients and dishes. After today, I’ll add a serving of sweetcorn sauce to my last supper, poured over gnocco fritto.
27 Leigh Street Adelaide(08) 7089 [email protected]
Open daily 11:30 am – Late (closed Monday afternoon only) fugazzi.com.au
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