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January 24, 2018

Introducing Francesco’s Osteria

Pop-up food stall Francesco's Cicchetti is moving into brick and mortar with Francesco's Osteria, a Venetian cafe housed in the former Modinetti Cafe space on Henley Beach Road.

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  • Words: Alexis Buxton-Collins
  • Pictures: Joshua Fanning

Venice is a city synonymous with excess, from lavish carnival celebrations to the hordes of tourists that pass through every day. But there’s another side to the floating city, one that comes through in its homely cuisine.


 Francesco’s Osteria opens on 25 January, and can be found at 146b Henley Beach Road, Torrensville

“There’s a long tradition of gluten-free food,” explains Francesco Aidone, a Venetian native who sports a bushy moustache and is rarely seen without a striped gondolier’s shirt. “It’s easier to find polenta and risotto than pasta in the osterias there.”

A scarcity of pastures also meant that traditionally there were “no cows, no pigs… just a few chickens,” and the result is a cuisine that’s remarkably well adapted to modern food trends.

Sarah Dallwitz is originally from Adelaide, but the couple spent twenty years in Venice, where they raised their children, before moving here four years ago and starting a mobile food stall, Francesco’s Cicchetti, so named for the small snacks served in wine bars and restaurants all over their former city.

The stall will continue to operate at the Wednesday markets at Plant 4, but the pair are also set to open a bricks and mortar restaurant.

Housed in the former Modinetti Cafe on Henley Beach Road, Francesco’s Osteria will be a restaurant and aperitivo bar in the evenings and certainly looks the part. The walls of the cosy space are decorated with old Campari posters, prints of traditional food items and recipes for spritz (a Venetian invention).

A fixed vegetarian menu will be accompanied by a specials board featuring meat and seafood dishes like squid ink risotto and seafood lasagne. Because they use traditional cooking methods, the dishes tend to be labour intensive and the pair plan to arrive early to start preparing them.

“If we’re going to be here anyway,” Francesco reasons, “we thought we might as well be open for breakfast.”

The traditional Venetian breakfast is a simple pastry and coffee, but they’re offering an all-day breakfast menu more akin to what one would find in an Australian cafe. Most of the vegetarian dishes will come with chargrilled polenta and there are some intriguing Venetian specialties like farinata, a vegan omelette made using chickpea flour.

Thanks to years of working in markets, Sarah and Francesco are well-connected with suppliers and will get most of their produce from Village Greens of Willunga Creek and the biodynamic Ngeringa Farm. The beverages are sourced as locally as possible with a few exceptions – Applewood’s amaros sit alongside Aperol and Campari behind the bar. This mix of tradition and innovation is also visible on their dessert menu, which includes a vegan panna cotta with plans to offer a vegan tira misu.

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