Page 14 - Foodservice magazine may 2019
P. 14

A. B.
Alberto’s has all the Swillhouse trademarks – namely the random location and ambiance in spades – but this distinction between ‘fully-’ and ‘semi-’ themed (and the mere fact this place has windows and natural light) separates it from the others in the group’s oeuvre; it’s inherently more personal. “It wasn’t intended that way,” Stefan clarifies, their Italian heritage and style just naturally swirled in.
“I fully trust and know it’s going to be good, whatever they do,” Pepperell says about the brothers’ early vision for Alberto’s. His confidence is mirrored by Anton and Stefan, who gave the chef carte-blanche with the menu. Personally, he couldn’t wait. “French
is great,” he says, referencing Hubert, but it’s not Italian. “Italian is simple and homely, but it’s also hard to do really well, which makes it technical and challenging as a cook. It’s my passion,” says Pepperell.
He geeks out on the regions, too. “I’m really into [food from] Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Lazio at the moment, but I take inspiration from them all really.” But Pepperell does not feel duty-bound to regionality, or authenticity for that matter. “There are plenty of people in Italy keeping it respectful and traditional, but we don’t have that shared history here in Australia, so we have a lot more freedom.”
That’s not to say Pepperell reinvents the wheel; at least half the dishes at Alberto’s are classic, from the rigatoni all’Amatriciana with guanciale, tomato and pecorino, to the veal saltimbocca with prosciutto, sage and Marsala. And reading the menu gives diners the
impression of generations-old recipes. “It’s pretty hard to get classic Italian food in Sydney actually,” he says.
When he does mix things up, it’s using ingredients that surround him, which ironically is how Italians approach cooking. He names his pandan and young coconut gelato. “It’s exactly what Italians would make if they had pandan growing in Rome, they just don’t have access to it.” Then there’s Pepperell’s bolognese. “Instead of using salt to season it as they would in Bologna, we have all these other salty condiments, like fish sauce and soy sauce, which add saltiness and savouriness.”
Authenticity, in one area at least, has been their Achilles’ heel: the entree-size pasta. Portions have been a hot topic in online reviews, but Pepperell says the issue is not the $24 price tag, but expectations. In Italy, meals start with antipasti and follow with
a small pasta primi before the main course, and Alberto’s menu
is designed accordingly. “In Australia, everyone is used to having these main mega pastas. Even though we tell customers, they still order it as a main.” Pepperell says they’re keeping the entree – they’ve built their success on doing things differently after all – but adding a main size to nip the issue in the bud.
The chef, who’s now full-time at Alberto’s, says he’s in his element, as the tight, 60-seat space lends itself to spontaneity. Pepperell changes the menu weekly and introduces specials that sparkle with
AandE. Alberto’s Lounge dining room.
B. Gelato is made in house. C. Pasta is also made fresh daily.
D. Chef Dan Pepperell.

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