Thursday, March 15, 2018

Way to Gaetano

Dinner at Monzu is much more than a meal, writes Geraldine Johns.

Top left: Gaetano Spinosa and executive chef Flavia Nasimento.

We are at Gaetano’s house and all is well with the world.
   This is what was once Merediths. It’s still a restaurant of very high standing but in another realm.
   You may remember Gaetano Spinosa from the much missed O’Sarracino. If you do you will know of his accomplished pedigree, as well as his unstoppable habit of having a very much hands-on influence on your dining event. After a few stints elsewhere Spinosa has made this Dominion Road address his headquarters from which he imparts a taste of Napoli - all of it good.
   And it is here that he has imported all his skills: not just in the kitchen but in the entire surrounds.
Monzu means ‘Monsieur’ in Italian. Translated here it means more than that: an abundance of warmth and generosity; a feeling of belonging; a sense of coming home.
   Let me tell you what we ate. It will be different when you turn up, because the menu changes daily. It’s very much dependent on both whim and fresh produce. There is a written outline of what’s on offer (seven main pastas; three main meat or fish dishes), but my advice would be to pay great heed to Gaetano’s recommendation. Actually, you don’t have much choice; he will steer the menu for you. He is as much storyteller as host. So we will know about the dishes he first learnt of at his mother’s apron strings. And we will relish his take on that inspiration.

Tonight’s antipasti.

   Start, do, with the antipasti. Ours is the vegetarian version: little pockets of deliciousness that have you enjoying even the foods you might ordinarily avoid. Consider, for example, the seductive peperoni in padella.
   To the mains: the pasta e piselli (peas, onion and pecorino with white truffle cream) and the fresh pasta with homemade pork and fennel sausage. Both of them gorgeous. 
   To dine at Monzu is to enjoy more than a meal. It’s an experience that borders on the theatrical. It’s only been going three weeks when we take our seats, but it still feels like an old and well established friend.
   Solicitous at every turn, Gaetano will treat every table as his Number One guest. Those same attentions are reflected in the dishes. Credit must also go to executive chef Flavia Nascimento, who delivers on every promise.
   It’s Fathers’ Day in Italy on March 15. And in homage to that we get a dessert of zeppola di San  Giuseppe, a creamy custard-filled pastry which is truly celebratory.
   To dine at Monzu is to yield to Gaetano’s influence. That is not a bad thing.

Top from left: pasta e piselli, peas, onion and pecorino with white truffle cream
fresh pasta with homemade pork and fennel sausage.
Below from left: stirring in the truffle cream; Zeppola di San Giuseppe 
with Giapo’s chocolate gelato.


365 Dominion Road, Mt Eden.
Phone (09) 623 3140.
Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 6pm
Antipasti: $16 per person
Mains: $29 - $38
Dessert: $15