Oster, Richmond’s own Traditional Northern Italian Osteria

27 February 2020


Pasta is a comfort food that a lot of people grew up eating. Some are even lucky enough to be raised in a home where the elders make fresh pasta from scratch. For these people, rolling gnocchi and making sheets of lasagna using old-school pasta machines is a way of life. Other people get to learn more about pasta from working at restaurants. Making and preparing pappardelle, stelline, stilini, and many other varieties of pasta are part of their daily routine. By experience or by research, other individuals are also able to discover specialty pasta variants that come from different regions of Italy such as Sicily’s casarecce, Liguria’s trofie, and Tuscany’s pici.

Indeed, one cannot have enough pasta. No wonder people are so obsessed with them. If you think that you’re well versed with different pasta varieties, then you can test yourself using a Buzzfeed quiz for fun. But, no matter how much of a “pasta connoisseur” you think you are, you might still be surprised if you’re able to eat at Oster. This new Bridge Road Italian diner offers casoncelli, which is a type of stuffed pasta that originated from Lombardy in northern Italy, which is the hometown of the restaurant’s co-owner and chef, Nicola Romano.

Casoncelli is made from pasta sheets that are four centimetres long and sandwiches together similar to a ravioli.

“There are two types of casoncelli,” Romano tells me. “Casoncelli di magro, the ‘skinny’, healthy option that’s filled with ricotta and spinach. And the grasso that’s filled with pork.”

Oster’s casoncelli di magro are twisted pasta pillows that are stuffed with ricotta and spinach. It’s dressed with whipped grana padano and finished off with fried sage and burnt butter for good measure. This very special dish is part of Oster’s tasting menu that changes every week. Some of their other dishes include crispy pork belly with a side dish of baby broad beans, blue swimmer crab garnished with daikon radishes, and red bell pepper risotto with mullet bottarga and black garlic.

These complex dishes represent the restaurant’s modern twist on traditional Northern Italian osteria, which is a place that specializes in simple food and locally-produced wine.

Here at Oster, all the products are locally sourced, except for pasta and rice because Romano prefers dry pasta over fresh pasta. All their seafood comes from The Fish Shoppe, and all their meats are from Vic’s Meats. If Romano has time, he also frequently purchases the ingredients himself.

If you’re craving for something sweet, then you have to order their deconstructed lemon meringue tart which is composed of a shortcrust pastry disc, tangy lemon curd, lightly torched Swiss meringue, and house-made raspberry sorbet. The ingredients of their desserts are sourced locally as well. Butter is bought from St David’s Dairy, organic lemons are from Lizzie who is their neighbor, and eggs are from Green Eggs which is a family-run company.

Of course, Oster offers lunch service as well. For $27, you can already feast on a sumptuous bowl of pasta, a glass of local wine to pair with it, and finally some tiramisu for dessert.

Romano is a highly-experienced chef. He’s worked in several kitchens from different locations in the world such as Italy, Spain, Ireland, and London. Just recently, he also managed Chapter 53 which is a pop-up restaurant. He worked hand in hand with Osvaldo Tognella, another co-owner of Oster, in that project as well.

“The dream of opening my own restaurant has always been there. I always pushed my dad to open one, even when I was in Italy,” said Romano.

After gaining loads of experience in Europe, Romano decided to move to Australia where he spent cooking at local eateries for six years. While working at Artusi in Southbank, he met Tognella, his current business partner. Like him, Tognella was also born in Milan.

If you’re planning to dine at Oster, then you’ll surely enjoy its ambience as well. With its polished floorboards, concrete finishes, low-hanging pendant lighting, and stripped-back rendered walls with red brick peaking through it, you’ll be able to enjoy a modern yet rustic dining experience.

Romano’s mother, a talented interior designer, designed the space. Flew from Italy to help her son establish his dream restaurant.