Finding great, rustic Italian food, cooked with skill and finesse is a challenge even in Melbourne. Restaurants like Matteo's in Fitzroy, The Italian or Florentino in the city spring to mind as the benchmarks in this style of food.
If you were searching for something like this in the suburbs! could it be found, or more to the point is there somebody out there who thinks they could do it!!
I decided to venture well away from the safety of Brunswick and Lygon Streets, and even further from Collins Street to Springvale Road in Forest Hill...If that wasn't enough to challenge my hopes of finding a great italian meal, I was in store for another shock when I drove past the restaurant. That's right I drove past because I thought the restaurant was actually a house, and a pretty ugly house at that. It was the kind of house you would see in a 1970's outer suburban housing estate. Brown brick, arches everywhere, exposed brick feature walls and an entrance door and hall that made me feel like I was visiting my bogan aunt.
On arrival I was greeted by a very posh and almost arrogant waitress, who efficiently showed me to my table. Walking through the dining room I was impressed with the space and the aroma in the restaurant, as well as the crowd. The restaurant was pretty much full. A good sign.
Thankfully the young lady who showed me in was replaced by a waiter who was matter of fact and unpretentious. Now I felt like I was in Springvale Road. After ordering drinks and viewing the menu I was served and appetiser compliments of the chef, a shot glass of French Onion Soup which was rich and thick and unctuous. It was well seasoned and a good beginning to the meal.
The menu read well, with many dishes that appealed to my sense of adventure and flavour. the wine list was extremely highly priced with most wines slapped with a 220% mark up. The restaurant does offer BYO at & $6 per bottle. Very good value and not much a a choice..."will I pay $60 for a bottle I could buy down the road for $16". Even with the $6 corkage I'm $38 ahead and that pays for the main!!
The entree home made pasta served with slow cooked poached egg and parmesan was easily the stand out dish. So simple and so well done. The pasta was perfect and the egg was delicate and rich at the same time. Other dishes that looked great were the honeycomb tripe or the wagu rump.
Overall the experience at Agrodolce was interesting but confusing. The food had shades of brilliance and simplicity, while the ambience and service were less that amazing.
Innovative and exciting Italian food served at a good price with overpriced wine and unfortunate ambience and service. The name Agorodolce means 'bittersweet' and it pretty accurately describes my experience here. All of this said it is still well worth a visit if you are a local.