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Lunch at new Oster Eatery in Richmond

Oster Eatery stands out as a stylish savvy authentic Italian restaurant that surprises with its class and pedigree. A world class chef Nicola Romano has been applying his craft in Melbourne in recent years after working in world top 50 restaurants, and is now shining as both chef and part owner bringing an exceptional Italian dining experience to Bridge Road Richmond. With a business partner strong in hospitality, Osvaldo Tognella and a superb sous chef, Oster Eatery is already being adopted by local foodies as a favourite. The fact that Oster means "host" in Italian is making a big call - implying that much rests on the quality of service. To this end we were wonderfully hosted for our lunch and we were impressed by the depth, little touches and foodie ability of this restaurant.

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Warm and welcoming, Oster lives up to its name as "host".

Inspired by the informal Osteria of northern Italy, chef Nicola Romano and manager Osvaldo Tognella have opened Ostēr Eatery on Bridge Road, Richmond - a stunning addition to the precinct. Yes we "love all things Italian" but the difference is that here in Richmond we have a restaurant that sources and highly prizes local ingredients and wines - something we can get excited about. While some restaurants mainly import ingredients from Italy we love this passion for the local.

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Romano and Tognella are both from Lombardy in northern Italy but actually met in Melbourne in late 2015 when Tognella took a job at Artusi in Southbank where Romano was head chef. The pair connected, both having had extensive international experience over the last 15 years. Tognella spent time at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan, two Ritz Carltons, in Istanbul, Turkey and Okinawa, Japan, adding a stint at Coombe Yarra Valley before the move to Melbourne.

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Romano serves a seasonal lunch menu from Monday to Saturday including this salumi plate of prosciutto from Borgo (QLD), Mortadella from Mr. Cannubi and Capocollo from De Palma (NSW) next to sourdough bread. This is a big deal - they have combed Australia for the best cured meats for their Salumi board (so soft and nuanced). We loved the "Italian kimchi" for it's heat (not overpowering) and pickled flavours. With fabulous wines to match, the Salumi board is a must order.

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Nicola has cooked in Florence as sous chef for Entiana Osmenzeza at Se.sto on Arno followed by two internships, in San Sebastián at Martin Berasategui (3 Michelins) and one at restaurant Viajante in east London (1 Michelin star). In Melbourne, they established Chapter 53 - a culinary events project holding up to four dinners a year - while planning to open a business together.

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Bespoke Italian varietal wines were pure joy.

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The focus at Ostēr Eatery is on the traditional, community-based idea of the Osteria, but the pair mix it up with a contemporary menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, based on local produce, matched with a sharp list of Australian drinks. Victorian and Australian produce is the foundation of Nicola Romano’s menu at Ostēr.

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Paccheri rigati featured Cacio e pepe, guanciale, and is a must order dish. Silky cheese sauce covers firm artisan-made paccheri rigati - the striped pasta that grabs all the sauce. Cracked fresh black peppercorns jump around crispy pork cheek morsels. As they say this is a not-so-peasant version of a traditionally peasant or shepherd feasting dish. One of the few things Oster they import is the first class artisan semolina from Italy. Pasta game is strong here; highly recommended for all the creatives in Richmond, Burnley and Cremorne.

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Handmade casoncelli featuring ricotta, spinach, sage, 48 months old grana is a pasta dish of the highest quality. A dish typical of the Lombardy region, Northern Italy. Silky sheets of pasta housing a delicate stuffing and pressed together (similar to ravioli) before folded like a sweet wrapper, filled with spinach and ricotta and a sauce of fried sage and 48 month aged Grana Padana cheese. A traditional dish with a modern twist.

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A simple garden salad was perfect with our pasta dishes.

O’Connor beef cheek with rice polenta features on the main courses - and pasta, all made in-house - includes handmade Casoncelli, with ricotta and spinach, sage, 48-month-old Grana and buckwheat gnocchi with pumpkin, capers and almonds.

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Romano embraces more culinary freedom at dinner. Guests can choose a five-course tasting menu with or without matching wines, or order a la carte. Move through dishes like, fior di latte with smoked eggplant and Romesco; risotto vialone nano - a semi-fino rice variety - with red capsicum, black garlic and bottarga, and free range lamb loin from the Lachlan Valley, NSW with asparagus, peas and chicory. “My parents run their own business in Italy and I learned from my father how to treat staff and work with the best products that you can. I want to bring that to Ostēr. I’m not preaching about how to eat, I am doing what I believe in and that’s about using as much local produce as we can.” “We see Ostēr as if you’re coming to our home,” says Romano, “we have an open kitchen, the room is open so it’s welcoming and easy.”

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This intention carries through the relaxed interior with leather banquettes, exposed brick and concrete walls, a wooden bar with seating for snacks, lunch or dinner.

Tognella’s wine list is all-Australian and succinct with a selection of 42 bottles with 15 wines by-the-glass. The list changes regularly, and he seeks out, “organic or biodynamic, single-vineyard and new wave and European grape varieties grown and made in Australia,” he says.

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Tiramisu is top notch, creamy with exceptional biscuit component, and excellent coffee flavour.

Breakfast includes sourdough bread made in-house, Petuna smoked salmon with chilli scrambled eggs - from Goulburn Valley’s Burd Eggs - and a Rueben sandwich using pastrami by Mr Cannubi in Mornington. 

Coffee is by Yarra Valley roaster, Silva Coffee and Ostēr is the only venue in Melbourne currently serving it. Having experienced this coffee, I can highly recommend, and the coffee machine is something to behold.

Sexy and savvy Oster is highly recommended.

Ostēr Eatery 76-78 Bridge Road Richmond Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7am-5pm; Fri-Sat, 8am-11pm