L'Altro Mondo Authentic Italian Dazzles in Albert Park
Melbourne does Italian food well according to The World Loves Melbourne. But in a world of fusion there can be confusion as Melbourne diners are seeking authentic Italian experiences, not pretenders trying to do Italian. Step up L'Altro Mondo in Albert Park. L'Altro Mondo (the name means "another world") is a stunning Italian restaurant forging its identity through a reputation for authenticity with acclaimed Italian chef Domenico De Marco (ex Rockpool Group and Glass Brasserie in Sydney) and front of house of the highest calibre (Elyse Woodward-Brown ex Rockpool Group). Check out our Best Italian Restaurants in Melbourne.
Born in Milano, raised in Imola, Bologna, but with his both of his parents originating from Calabria, Domenico brings knowledge from the southern, northern and central Italy to his pans. His extensive resume (can't believe he just turned 30) includes a slew of one star Michelin Italian restaurants including Il Povero Diavolo (Torriana), Ristorante L ‘erbe del re (Modena) and at the Four Seasons Hotel (Florence). In Australia, Domenico has worked with renowned chefs such as Luke Mangan and Neil Perry at the Rockpool Group. A cozy restaurant of some 50 covers, at l’altro mondo there is a choice of degustation or a la carte menus. Domenico describes his food as ‘contemporary cuisine with an Italian influence’. This is not confused fusion but rather dishes with clear lineage and subtle, yet sometimes surprising flavor combinations. Says Domenico; “I like to excite and challenge the way people think about what can be done to Italian food and Italian cooking techniques.”
You will find dishes here you may not find anywhere else in Melbourne. You can order off the menu but we recommend the small or large tasting plates as great value and diversity (they also embrace BYO wine). L'Altro Mondo has been popular since it opened and we arrived early on a Monday night by invitation.
The World Loves Melbourne enjoyed the superb 7 course degustation at L'Altro Mondo which shows off the amazing cooking ability of Domenico with a wide variety of tastes, techniques and textures. Front of house Elyse provided us top notch service and expertise. This is a power team. Decor is simple and tasteful, with an open kitchen out the back. White walls, classic chairs and tables and minimal artwork give the vibe of simple classic style.
L'Altro Mondo is a foodie hub with Domenico De Marco working long hours (often 18 hour days), training his team of chefs, and changing the menu to express his passions for fine food and wine.
A top chef has control over the whole process and Domenico De Marco makes everything from scratch. For example, speak with Domenico and you will soon see his passion for making his own exceptional bread, his baked ricotta, and his cured meats (pictured below). The first couple of dishes were served with an exceptional Prosecco from Italy.
The House made bread with olive oil and butter with nuance of caraway seeds was delightful (accompanied with playful Grissini). The baked ricotta grabbed our attention as we don't often see this, and we enjoyed the depth of flavour that comes in the baking process.
A triumph was the Antipasti with exceptional cured house made meats. Domenico prides himself in this area and brought out some of his hanging meats from out the back. Again, it's not everyday we enjoy first class Cured pork loin, with nuance of chilli around the edges.
And it's not everyday we enjoy Pig's head as part of an antipasti - using the top of the pig's head. We also imbibed the specialty of Bresaola, the house cured air dried beef, rocket parmesan, tomato, with balsamic dressing. L'Alto Mondo's antipasti dish was a clear step up from the normal prosciutto and salamis you get at most Italian restaurants.
L'Altro Mondo is a delightful slice of Italy in the burbs and the ambience is intimate and gives rise to conviviality. Diners should come here expecting serious technique and fine food and wine, with this restaurant unapologetically pushing into a high class fine dining experience. We think diners may be surprised at the quality, especially if they're expecting a basic Italian expression of large bowls of cheap pasta at cheap prices. L'Alto Mondo has the kind of quality in the burbs you rarely see.
We indulged in this stunning dish of Poached rainbow trout, sauté fregola with pumpkin, tapioca, salmoriglio salsa. Art on a plate - and the plate itself was beautiful as a prime piece of slate. The first impression was "this is a dish made with love and care". The trout prepared like this was wonderful, as the hero of the dish. This dish is arresting, not what a traditional Italian dish tastes like and has a kick of zing and crunch. Like a bright silk lining in a tailored jacket, surprising but simultaneously delightful.
There's a playfulness at L'Alto Mondo in the serious business of fine dining. In a nod to Australia Domenico served us this Onion pie/tart that was delicious and not without technique. This was one of several favourites for the night. Warm and rustic, as well as delicate.
Matching wines were well thought out and of a high quality.
Many an Italian restaurant is judged by it's pasta. The pasta we imbibed was house made using high grade durum wheat. It kept it's firmness and was perfectly cooked if not delicate. Cavatelli pasta with chunky bolognese and lemon was a modern and rustic triumph. We hear it’s the pasta that drives the returning hordes in. The signature dish for the salivating locals is the fresh tagliatelle, made with a 6 hour slow cooked chunky Bolognese cut from pork picked off the bone and spiked with oregano and lemon.
The diversity of the degustation was amplified with this Pork belly dish, featuring beetroot and crackling that was like a "pork puff". The pork had it's skin removed and was wonderfully braised. A small pig's trotter croquette also captured our attention as a burst of pork intensity. A hit of apple cut through the richness of the pork. So much going on here. Again, it was art on the plate.
The hits kept coming with Saffron mousse, salted macadamia, frozen yoghurt, zaeti biscuit, polenta, marzipan, sherry caramel. Not your everyday dessert and we enjoyed the diverse textures and the nuance of saffron.
Kudos to Domenico De Marco and his team for a sophisticated degustation that hit the high notes. Tuned into subtle changes of the season that happen almost weekly in Melbourne, he ensures that his menu changes daily and only seasonal food is considered with every new menu rendition. Whether you are an Italian traditionalist or prefer to swerve off the autostrada into culinary roads less travelled, make sure you make l’ altro mondo a destination for your next food adventure.
The World Loves Melbourne left wishing this was our local and intend to return. Highly recommended.