KATO review on The Olive Jar experience.
We often feel a little weird when we walk into an establishment such as a restaurant and hear the familiar strains of music filtering in the background.
Many of our loyal friends and followers raved on about "The Olive Jar" and how it's one of Melbourne's few rustic eateries that truly capture the essence of traditional Italian homeland dining. Well, may we say from the minute we walked in, the pungent fragrances of cheese and cooked sauces have us salivating enough to chew the leg off a table.
Lots of fresh crusty bread, tubs of olives, giardiniera (traditional Italian relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar and oil) and a selection of cheese and delicately sliced prosciutto and smoked hams capture your eyes just inside the entrance. Very reminiscent of every Nonna's pantry back home in Italy. Right at that moment, Katia and I decided to have the antipasto for entree, just for starters.
Our delightful host, Giovanni escorts us to a quiet table, provides a little family history about the restaurant and proudly explains the style of their menu and the specials on offer. Everything on the Menu and Specials Board would spoil even the most discerning diner for choice. From traditional pizzas to memorable dishes my mum used to cook.
I chose one of the more creative offering such as the home-made ravioli stuffed with slow cooked duck and venison meat in a Bolognese sauce served right from the pan. Katia chose the Barramundi fillet stylized to her liking with roasted vegetables and green salad. In the meantime, we savoured the antipasto. When the meals arrived and hit the table, the OMG's were going off the scale. The servings were generous, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious whilst retaining the custom of home-style cooking.
Having an Italian background and worked in the hospitality industry as entertainers for over forty years, one develops a very spoilt and discerning appreciation for great food. The Olive Jar spoils us even more. Giovanni is quite the host, delightfully engaging and very knowledgeable.. "try the home-made red wine", he confidently suggests. And so we did. To our amazement, a couple of glasses of this "no name, no label" bottle tasted surprisingly good, hint of a Shiraz and Pinot blend that danced lightly in the mouth leaving a soft fruity sensation lingering to refresh the palate... totally understated.
As Giovanni presented the sweets menu, he gushed with a little excitement about our music mentioning how much he loved our CD collection. He genuinely felt honoured to have us dinning at The Olive Jar where many of his regular diners also made reference to our music. The mutual admiration and schmoozing was suddenly interrupted when I noticed they offered zabagllione on the menu.
The Zabaglione is one of Italy's greatest culinary inventions and contributions to the hospitality world. For the uninitiated, after tasting this ethereal desert, it may have you singing like Pavarotti. Giovanni emerged from the kitchen manually whisking my dessert at the table. He beamed a smile knowing all too well what I was about to experience... and it was the best of the best! The Olive Jar is the little gem of Carlton that oozes charm and passion for great food and friendly ambience. Check it out! Mention KATO and Giovanni will look after you.