Dining / Italian with a taste for food, fun and friends

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IF you fancy eating like an Italian, chances are you’ll feel at home when dining at Civic’s Provini.

Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson.

It opened in Garema Place as a formal, full-on restaurant, but the recipe wasn’t perfetto. So the team, including Frank Condi, who is Italian through and through, are working on evolving Provini into more of a “food, fun and friends” place; a place that is delighted when you pop by for a beer and pizza, or a cocktail and some share plates.

Expect more refinements over the coming weeks including a bar atmosphere combined with a nonna-type kitchen. Our gang headed to Provini for Sunday lunch. Only one of us had visited previously and she was a bit hesitant to return since her experience hadn’t been perfetto. She’s converted.

We grabbed a table on the balcony and got stuck into it. I was running late so my friends did the sensible thing, as they always do, and ordered something to share – something to get their tastebuds dancing.

By the time I arrived, their tastebuds were in full swing. The pizza they had, btw, was the piccante ($23) – salami, n’duja (spreadable, spicy pork sausage), fior di latte and chilli oil. The pizza chef is from Italy so it’s no surprise the pizza was a ripper.

My fazzoletti was full of flavour ($26). The big sheets of handmade pasta looked fabulous on the plate (fazzoletti comes from “handkerchiefs” in Italian). The smoked pancetta, roast capsicum sugo, chilli oil and basil all packed a punch.

My fear, when I heard an “evolution” was underway, was that this dish would be taken off the menu. I’ve confirmed it’s staying. So, too, is nonna’s touch, although the young lads in the kitchen are adding their own modern take to some dishes.

The pappardelle ($28) was also full-on flavour, although my friend felt it just a tad sweet. This pasta was served with wood-fired pork and veal meatballs, tomato sugo and romano. Another friend, who has a mad love affair with chilli, thought the tagliatelle was spot on. A nice hit of spice, she reported, and the prawns, squid, clams, tomato and herbs got along just fine ($29).

Provini’s menu is divided into small plates, large plates, pizza and desserts. From the small plates came a satisfying calamari dish ($17) – the squid lightly fried and fresh with cucumber, basil, fennel and a bit of chilli.

Since sharing is so much part of Italian eating, Provini offers “piccolo” (five dishes for $50 a person) or “grande” (seven dishes for $65 a  person).

I don’t often dive into desserts, but can’t wait to return to road test the tiramisu or cannoli, two of the “something sweet” offerings on the menu ($14).

Provini, 50 Bunda Street. Call 6154 9720. Open for lunch and dinner seven days.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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