Carmine and Co. is a traditional Italian restaurant that is well and truly a historical icon in Port Adelaide. Carmine & Co. opened its doors back in 1968 and over forty years later now have a new place to call home in the likes of a former bank building only a hop, skip and a jump south of their old location on Commercial Road. As well as the restaurant, Carmine & Co. own a takeaway pizza bar right next door, the Port Pizza Bar, which offers a home delivery service. Whilst I have never dined at their previous location, I was keen to see what Carmine & Co. had done with the newly updated premises which opened back in September.
On entering the restaurant I was in awe of the décor. You could tell that Carmine & Co. had put a great deal of time and effort into the design of the new restaurant. What stood out to me the most was the large mirrored feature wall behind the bar that housed an assortment of spirit and liqueur bottles. This was teamed with numerous gold-toned pendant lights overhanging a black and white tiled bar; a feature in its own right. On the other side of the room is an exposed brick wall with an eye-catching artwork in the shape of Italy and a clever wall recess showcasing more bottles of wine. The other ingenious feature that caught my eye was a giant roll of brown paper hanging near the entrance ready for the specials of the day. Together with a mezzanine level, Carmine & Co. also have a small outdoor area towards the back of the restaurant.
Being an Italian restaurant Carmine & Co. have all the traditional Italian dishes you would expect such as pizza and pasta, and the not-so-traditional dishes like a Nutella pizza. They also offer a $55 ‘feed me’ menu that enables you to try a selection of their finest dishes. You can also order from a selection of cured meats and cheese that are on display in an elegant chilled glass cabinet. In addition they have an extensive beverage menu, offering a range of local and Italian wines, beers and ciders, cocktails and traditional Italian ‘Aperitivo’ and ‘Digestivi’ drinks.
Given that we were time poor on the night, we opted to forgo entrées and jump straight to mains. I chose an authentic Italian dish, the Funghi Selvaticin, an Arborio rice risotto with sautéed wild mushrooms, saffron, onions, parsley, baby spinach, asparagus, garlic and cracked black pepper, garnished with Reggiano cheese. The dish was beautifully presented for a risotto, which can sometimes be unappealing visually. The rice grains were a rich golden-yellow hue courtesy of the saffron, which contrasted with the pops of green colourings imparted by the parsley, asparagus and baby spinach. Moreover, the serving size was quite generous. The rice was perfectly cooked with a creamy consistency and there was little excess liquid in the bowl; all signs of a great risotto. However, I felt that the flavours of the wild mushrooms were lacking. Having said this I thoroughly enjoyed the risotto and thought that the crunchy asparagus was a great accessory to an otherwise uniform textured dish.
Mr N on the other hand chose to order a more carnivorous dish, the Costole Affumicati; chargrilled smoked pork ribs marinated in a secret blend of spices served with a side of sweet potato chips and BBQ sauce. Again this dish was well presented, this time on a wooden board with a small jug containing the dipping sauce. Mr N thought the pork meat was tender with a good amount of char and still quite juicy considering the lengthy cooking process and found the blend of spices perfect on their own. I on the other hand found that the BBQ dipping sauce was a great accompaniment to the pork ribs and was deliciously tangy with a good hit of chilli. Despite there being a decent number of ribs on the board I felt they could have bulked up the dish with more sweet potato chips, which were a nice alternative from your typical potato fries.
The service at Carmine & Co. was average on the night. Whilst we were constantly asked if we wanted more drinks and given a handy lemon-infused water bowl for washing our hands after we polished off the pork ribs, our meals took almost forty minutes to arrive which is rather lengthy considering the restaurant wasn’t that busy by this stage of the night. We also weren’t explained the specials of the night, which were in the process of being scrawled on the brown paper as we arrived. To add further insult, I was unfortunate enough to find a fly in my glass of rosé, nevertheless the staff were quick to sincerely apologise and provide me with a fresh glass of wine. The pricing at Carmine & Co. is reasonable for an Italian restaurant of such calibre. Both of our dishes were priced at $28, the average price of mains, with pizza and pasta being priced slightly cheaper at $18-24. The new and improved Carmine & Co. is definitely proving popular with the locals based on fully booked dinner services. I look forward to visiting Carmine & Co. in the future and trying more of their tasty menu!
Words and Photos by Kelly Betterman
WHERE: 49 Commerical Rd, Port Adelaide