Rocco Esposito and his wife Lisa Pidutti opened Project Forty Nine deli and cafe in Collingwood late last year to bring a slice of Beechworth to the city. They've now turned that slice into a proper piece with the opening of a 60-seat restaurant next door.
"Already this reminds us of Wardens Food & Wine, the restaurant we owned in Beechworth many years ago," says Esposito, a former wine director at Vue de Monde. "It's got the same beautiful light and great feel."
The restaurant occupies the former electrical engineering part of the historic Foy & Gibson precinct (most recently home to Melbourne Fire Brigade).
The country touches are subtle. The space, designed by Pidutti with Elenberg Fraser architects, is built around a large open kitchen with a marble bar, in a room framed by red brick and polished concrete. Large photographs of the couple's Beechworth property hang on several walls, and there are plans to work the contours of their farm's hills into the branding and a still-to-be-painted mural.
Chef Tim Newitt apprenticed with Esposito and Pidutti at Wardens, but has since worked at Cutler & Co, Craft & Co and the Project Forty Nine deli-cafe. His share-plate menu nods to the owners' Italian heritage with dishes such as mushroom ravioli in porcini broth with parmesan oil, and fig leaf panna cotta with rhubarb and hazelnut sable, using produce sourced almost exclusively from the Beechworth region.
It's the same with the wine list. Featuring 80 wines, it mostly focuses on north-east Victorian vineyards such as Pennyweight, Giaconda, Castagna, Dalzotto and Pizzini.
"We want to do more than just bring the country to the city," Esposito says. "We want it to be an identifiable part of Victoria. We want you to feel like you're coming to our place [in Beechworth] for lunch or dinner."
Open Tue-Fri noon-3pm, Tue-Sat 6pm-10pm.
107 Cambridge Street, 03 9419 4449, projectfortynine.com.au