My first Fratelli Fresh experience was in 2008 at Potts Point, which wasn’t the original, but was one of the earliest branches. At the time I thought, “this place is amazing; I wish there were more”. And it did. Not only has Fratelli Fresh continued to expand, but it is now in Melbourne, ready to conquer from an initial flagship position in Alfred Place.
I have been following the Melbourne Italian dining scene for many years as a tourist and over the past 8 years as a local. For most of those years I think the sentiment was to hold the long running Italian restaurants as Melbourne treasures, untouchable by new entrants. While there is no doubt the old school remains extremely cool, there is a growing place for new entrants as the city heaves with growth. Tipo 00 is an excellent example of a break-out, but new, Italian restaurant in the city, that is still honouring Melbourne’s love of all things Italian.
More than any other restaurant undertaking in Melbourne, if you are going to do Italian, you need to do it carefully and properly. Fratelli Fresh is bringing Sydney’s A-game to our proud city, and nothing less would do. The entrance, as it was in the Comme days, continues to be impressive, but is now adorned with a triumvirate of attractive hosts representing both the cafe downstairs, and the steak house (Cut) upstairs.
The downstairs room of Fratelli Fresh is inviting and well thought through. For the first time this year, I’ve walked into a venue that isn’t Scandinavian dominant, and is sensibly (and well) decorated by flourishes of very Italian red, and plenty of Italian paraphernalia reminiscent of the Fratelli brand of the North. It’s comfortable, kept casual with paper napkins, and the artistic writing over the bar is kitsch but not over the top. Both the welcome out in the foyer, and inside the cafe, is warm and our waitperson is attentive, but leaves us to catch up for a time before ordering.
There are plenty of good options to stretch out lunch or enjoy a single course. Andrew orders the pappardelle with braised beef cheek ragu, and while I would have been happy with the same choice, I decide on the cheesy casarecce ‘cacio e pepe’. The pappardelle looks great, served generously, and while Andrew says there are a few pieces that haven’t completely broken down, it is still a good dish.
I’m glad I had the warning of “cheesy” because my dish is full of cheesy goodness, making for a really filling main. The casarecce pasta is literally translated to “handmade” and is rustic small twisted fresh pasta, that is perfectly al dente. ‘Cacio e Pepe’ which I had to look up, is “cheese and pepper”, but really I ordered this for the pigs cheeks, which is served in cubes and has the salt and fat goodness that lifts the flavour, with some rapini greens to break it all up a bit. I’d suggest it would not be unwarranted to share the pasta if you are also looking at the wood fired pizzas, or some of the salumi and cicchetti on offer.
With a Butcher’s Bride American pale ale on tap to wash it down, all that is needed to finish today is a long black. My coffee is well made in the no fuss Italian style as you would hope for.
I’m excited about Fratelli Fresh and I’m hopeful they will open even closer to home in the next few years. This will certainly not be the last time I’m here, and it seems that all the experience gained over a decade in Sydney has been beautifully translated into this first offering south of the border.