Osteria del Mare reminds me that in so many ways the Gold Coast is fortunate. Not only are our climate and mountain-fringed seascape a joy in themselves, but the coast’s magnetism draws world travellers like flotsam to our shores for us to enjoy.
One such couple is Andrea and Simona Riva, owners of the newly-opened Osteria Del Mare.
Hailing from Cesena in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region (home to the world’s oldest library, Biblioteca Malatestiana, so we love it already), they first visited Sydney in 2002, working six months a year there due to the seasonal nature of tourism in Italy, finally migrating in 2008 to be co-owners of Osteria Riva in Bondi Junction (which soon became the Little Italy of Sydney). Migrating to Queensland for family reasons, they waited to find the perfect location overlooking Burleigh’s foreshore.
It’s here, in a simply decorated osteria, that Andrea shows off his culinary skills.
“I trained at a chef school in Rimini, where cinematographer Frederico Fellini was born,” Andrea tells us. “There in Romagna, you are surrounded by the best parmesan, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto in the world, all DOP.”
Such high-quality produce has been instrumental in setting a standard for his fine Italian food, including some dishes rarely seen on the coast.
“Most of the Italians here are from the south,” Andrea tells us, explaining regional variations to Italian cuisine. Food from the north-east, his homeland, is lighter than that of the south with less cream, tomato and garlic, using lots of herbs, EVO, balsamic vinegar and lemon instead.
We start with Fritto Misto di Pesce ($19), soft sweet seafood, lightly floured and flash fried, flowing out of a paper horn across the plate. It’s food for the gods. I stop in wonder at the taste, the seasoning vibrant and piquant on the tongue.
“It’s the finest salt I can buy, imported from Trapani in Sicily,” Andrea informs us.
Next comes Carpaccio di Tonno ($18), paper-thin slices of raw yellowfin tuna dressed in exceptional extra-virgin olive oil and freshly cut herbs, served with cubes of fried puff bread. It’s a dish that could take pride of place in any fine dining restaurant.
It’s the time-consuming attention to detail that leads to improved presentation and taste. Salmon and asparagus ricotta ravioli is fresh and vibrant, but the pasta on my list for next time is Capoletti, little hats of pasta closed by hand around imported porcini mushrooms with a porcini sauce or perhaps the seafood lasagne.
Modestly, Andrea tells us, “For me, if you use good products, it’s hard to make a mistake.” He explains that the pizza flour is from Italy, tomatoes from Italy, prosciutto from Italy…making everything from scratch, the pizza dough 48-hour proven to aid digestion.
“Three days is the perfect maturation for pizza dough,” he tells us, and it’s easy to taste the difference. “Even the gluten-free flour comes from Italy, with dairy-free ‘nozzarella’ added to vegan pizzas.
“The world is changing, so we need to keep updated to keep customers happy,” Andrea explains, adding that his wife Simona is vegan, so he understands.
Daily specials add interest to the menu, and the range of freshly-baked sweet slices and desserts changes daily.
The couple have plans for chef’s dinners and cooking classes.
Most of all, though, they would like us to try their food.
“We are so close to the ocean,” Andrea says, and we can almost feel its magnetic force. “It’s easy to eat seafood here. Maybe come in to try some carpaccio or fritto misto for a light meal with a glass of wine or an apperitovo,” he adds.
We can’t think of anything better!
2/1718 Gold Coast Highway, Burleigh Heads, Ph: 07 5576 6169
Open Tues – Fri 11am – late; Sat – Sun 10am – late