Good wine should tell its own story,” contends Luigi Castaldo, the owner of Ristorante RetroGusto, and it’s certainly true that it champions this philosophy, combining quality organic produce with old-school design to tell a delicious culinary tale.
This is an exciting and different take on Italian dining. It was my first experience without pizza, dough balls, excruciating Pavarotti classics or other tacky references. It was a refreshing surprise and pleasantly caught me off-guard.
Back to the future
RetroGusto also avoids clichés in a design that showcases lesser known Nordic artists. The tables have been “tattooed” by Danish designers, while the walls are adorned with hand-painted wine boxes. The broader design is thematically 1970s. And iconic prints adorn the walls while the menus utilises album artwork from the decade.
Any references to Italy are markedly different from what you might find at a large chain. My favourite item was a converted Lambretta headlight hanging from the ceiling. Just like the classic brand, the food would also prove to have the mark of a master craftsman.
A culinary masterclass
Both modern and traditional culinary techniques are used at the restaurant. For example, while the breads are made in a time-honoured, traditional way, modern cooking methods are expertly used to enhance flavour when required. Tasting the vacuum-cooked Australian beef was close to a religious experience. It was cooked evenly and retained its natural juices – both of which are impossible using a conventional oven.
Unique ingredients were expertly utilised within each course. The barracuda used in the pasta paired beautifully with a glass of Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy. The restaurant’s selection of red wine was overall very good – in particular the Perricone from Sicilia.
However, at no point did the modern methodology seem forced upon the menu, instead delightfully complementing each course. I loved it that a real effort had been made to replace boring pepperoni pizzas shoved onto a plate with mouth watering dishes that bore a clean aesthetically pleasing look.
Dessert was the finishing touch to an exquisitely crafted meal: a trio of miniature puddings including ingredients such as tarragon snow, scullion cookies and a fennel ice cream. It was the perfect light finish to a well-rounded menu.
Looking to the future
Despite being served dishes of the highest quality throughout the night, it was the organic wine list that stands RetroGusto apart. Luigi uses organic wines as much as possible in the restaurant – the concept first introduced to him by his grandfather as a young boy.
He has a sincere belief in the future of the organic wine industry.
“The choice of organic wines on offer are increasing all the time,” contends Castaldo.
“More and more quality means consumers are going back to the past for the tastes of the future.”
And the future looks bright for Ristorante RetroGusto with their combination of fabulous food and winning wines.