Who would ever have thought an Italian restaurant in Canberra would be as OTT as this? Provini is cheekily kitsch - from the brick walls with sconces to the loudly floral patterned carpet to the lace curtains at the windows. The only thing that's missing is the plastic sheeting on the overstuffed chairs. It's part of the Cocu Group, set up by developer and restaurateur Frank Condi, which is revamping other eateries such as Public in Manuka and SubUrban in Dickson.
Head chef Wayne Alger's menu is pizzas, pastas and Italian classics, all done "Nonna style" with hearty helpings and a Sunday-night-family gathering atmosphere. A ruby-coloured beetroot risotto is creamy, light and pleasant with dots of three-milk cheese to add a bit of tang. Or pick at a heap of cleanly flavoured cold octopus with potatoes in the starters. Pizzas are stripey and blistered from the wood fired oven and are kept wonderfully simple with a few good ingredients on a light crisp base - the margherita is full of creamy fior di latte and tomato, the contadina a lush medley of ricotta and rosemary. Desserts are classic without being cliche - the tiramisu laced with the herbal liqueur strega is luscious without descending into creamy mush.
If the decor and the noise gets a bit much, escape to the plusher, quieter wing of the restaurant where sofa banquettes and soft lighting make for a more romantic night. Or head onto the terrace with its 1970s wrought iron railings and grandma-approved water feature on the wall.
Provini manages to be a family style restaurant that's also popular with the Saturday night style crowd who flock to Civic and Braddon when the weekend descends.
50 Bunda Street, Canberra, 6154 9720, cocu.com.au/provini