PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
It's small. It's packed. It's noisy. And it's very, very good - for many the best Italian restaurant in the state. Certainly it's one of the very few to realise that Italy doesn't stop at Naples and that there's more to Italian food than pizza and pasta. Presided over for many years by the almost legendary chef Albert Taurian, it had become something of a Launceston institution when a young couple, Nicholas Hooper and Sarah Graham-Hooper, bought it five years ago. If anything, they've lifted the standard with highly professional and personal service, an elegantly stylish atmosphere suffused with a feel-good buzz and delicious food that lives up to the front-of-house promise.
Nick's cooking is simple and beautifully presented with some creative flourishes scattered through such Italian classics as carpaccio di manzo, scaloppine al vino, linguini al frutti di mare and that Sicilian favourite, lumache - snails. His variation on carpaccio is a knockout - traditionally thin-sliced raw beef with a non-traditional horseradish cream, lifted by a wonderfully complementary salad of baby beetroot, fresh goats cheese and capers. While the calf liver in the fegato alla Veneziana sometimes needs a little less pan time, things like chicken liver crostini with sage and sweet tomato and the mussels steamed till just plumped in a tangy Pinot Grigio, garlic and chilli broth demonstrate the sure touch of the kitchen. Then there are wines like a 2001 Barbaresco on an excellent list whose truffled mellowness echoes the delicious autumnal flavours of an intense mushroom linguini.