Agostinis opens in Canberra’s East Hotel [gallery]

06 April, 2017 by
Danielle Bowling

Agostinis is the creation of siblings Dan and Dion Bisa and is the latest addition to their family of venues in Canberra. Designed by Kelly Ross and located in East Hotel, the restaurant complements the hotel, which is owned and operated by the family business Bisa Hotels.

The restaurant is named in homage to their mother Marisa, whose family owned a restaurant in Northern Italy bearing the family name of Agostinis, before migrating to Australia in the 1930s.

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The Bisa’s wanted to create a restaurant in the nation’s capital that would serve classic Italian food in a relaxed and inviting setting.

“Agostinis is the realization of a dream for us,” said owner Dion Bisa. “We have been inspired by restaurants all over the world that define their cities and our aim was for Agostinis to be that restaurant in Canberra; a destination dining experience. By creating this spectacular place for people to come and enjoy our hospitality, we have taken the next step in activating the precinct we had always envisioned for East Hotel and brought our vision to life.”

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Interior designer Ross, who also designed Joe’s Bar, has returned to create a tableau; every object is customized or custom made, with a backstory that ties back to the life of Marisa Bisa. A pink neon sign frames the entrances from the hotel lobby and the street. The front section of the restaurant is spacious, flanked by the open kitchen with pizzaiolos working in fullview. Another section provides a quieter, more intimate experience alongside a bar. A series of botanical prints along with a leopard print from Kingdom Home, represented by Sydney-based fabric studio Emily Ziz, line the space.

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Dolomite, limestone and tile link to the family’s Italian origins in the region of Friuli Venezia. The limestone marble counter that runs the length of the open kitchen is veined with dolomite, whilst the copper light installations hanging above the entrance from the hotel lobby are complete with dolomite counterweights.

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“My second collaboration with the Bisas has been a celebration of the family values of hard work, honesty and quality,” said Ross. “Marisa Bisa, the matriarch of the Bisa family, is the reluctant catalyst for this project and it was important to me to pay homage to her spirit in a way that would influence the overall appearance of the restaurant. Having her story in mind guided the creative process and gave every element special meaning. Agostinis is about an unapologetic enthusiasm for being honest and bold, not for the purpose of craving attention but as a vehicle to express oneself.”

Romano chef Francesco Balestrieri leads the 15 person kitchen team at Agostinis where his menu is a celebration of simple authenticity, prepared to perfection. Pasta is freshly made to order in house and Agostinis pizzas are created in the open kitchen using fresh ingredients and a special Neapolitan artisan technique where the pizza dough naturally rises for 72 hours before going into the state-of-the-art rotating Marana Forni pizza oven. Imported from Verona, Italy, it is the only one of its kind in Canberra and is capable of cooking 15 pizzas at one time.

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The menu is inspired by the traditional cuisine of northern Italy, with dishes such as Agostinis Antipasto Originale with Veneto salame, San Daniele prosciutto, Black Pepper Mortadella, Treccia mozzarella, olives & sourdough; Frico with paper thin layers of Montasio cheese & potato, oven roasted to form a heavenly, crunchy, chewy morsel; Paccheri Salsiccia di Maiale featuring tube-shaped pasta with Italian pork, fennel & chilli sausage slow cooked with tomato sugo; and Cotoletta alla Milanese featuring a parmesan & thyme crusted 250gm veal cutlet served with a fennel & cabbage insalata.

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The house speciality is Bistecca alla Fiorentina. Designed for two to three people to share, the one kilo aged T-bone is prepared simply with salt and rosemary, grilled to medium rare and left to sit before being served with roast potatoes & a medley of mustard, horseradish & salsa verde butter.

Bianca and rossa pizzas are also feature on the menu. Created by the specially trained ‘pizzaiolo’s’, they have been designed in the traditional Italian style with fewer ingredients on light and airy bases. Groups can enjoy the one-meter long Mama Mia pizza with a selection of three toppings. Maritozzo con Gelato, a freshly made brioche bun served warm, filled with vanilla & chocolate gelato and Agostinis’ Tiramisu, savoiardi biscuits, freshly brewed coffee, marscapone & chocolate mousse, are among the dessert offerings.

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The wine list at Agostinis has been designed to provide a balanced array of varietals from all over Italy, alongside a few Australian wines, including Beppo’s Blend, a blend of Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera, made especially for Agostinis by local winemaker Bryan Martin from Ravensworth Wines at Murrumbateman. Alongside that, Agostinis offers the only 100 percent Italian made wines available on tap in Australia.The beverage selection also includes a wide range of imported and local beer.

“Many of my happiest childhood memories are associated with my family coming together over food,” said Dan Bisa, owner and director of Bisa Hotels. “My mother is an incredible Italian cook and she was taught by her parents, so we have been fortunate to be surrounded by really authentic Italian food our whole lives. Inspired by the success of Joe’s Bar, what we envisioned was a beautiful, inviting space, with all the Kelly Ross magic, that would be gorgeous but accessible to all, from business travellers staying at EAST through to local families and groups of friends.”