What to order at La Pinta

Published on 17 December 2020

Photo: La Pinta, Reservoir

The inside word on the menu from co-owners Catherine Chauchat and Adam Racina.

Reservoir might not be the first place you think of when you're looking for small bars, but it's exactly where Catherine Chauchat and Adam Racina found an old Italian “Expresso Bar”, steeped in history, upon which to build their Spanish-inspired, Melbourne-born tapas bar La Pinta. 

They choose to renovate the space gently, with the aim of incorporating the old with the new. The striking dark-blue bar that is the centrepiece seats 16 guests on beautiful, locally made blackbutt stools, against a backdrop of walls adorned with decades-old murals depicting scenes of Italy and Australia. 

Behind the bar, Chauchat slings wine, vermouth and beer straight from the barrel for $5 a glass, while Racina cooks and serves a delicious array of seasonal small plates inspired by the Mediterranean. 

There’s tables and chairs for those who prefer a lower seat, and the back prep kitchen can accommodate a larger group of diners in a setting that feels as if you're eating in a beautiful old home kitchen in Spain or Italy, surrounded by pickles, preserves and bags of flour that Racina uses for his sourdough.

Chauchat and Racina’s vision for the bar is simple: to create a warm, fun, convivial space that serves delicious food and drink at affordable prices, with no dish priced at over $20 and drinks starting at a fiver. The blackboard menu is ever-changing in order to truly prioritise seasonality, and there’s an ongoing focus to support small-scale regenerative agriculture via a network of local farmers and producers.

Here they share some favourites from their menu.

How about a drink?
We love vermouth and apera (aka Australian sherry). We have both a dry and a classic vermouth from Maidenii that are perfect as an apéritif or in a Spritz on a summer evening. We’re also pouring the increadible Pennyweight fino, amontillado and oloroso. When they’re $5 a glass, there’s all the more reason to try them all.

I’m here for a good time not a long time.
The glass cabinet on the front bar is filled with quick and simple tapas – if you only have 15 minutes you can easily knock the froth off a crisp Boatrocker pilsner from the tap with bread we bake ourselves and a slice of tortilla de patatas. If it’s a quick dinner you’re after we always have a handmade pasta available – tagliatelle with spent-hen ragù, perhaps. It’s $20, and along with a half a litre of locally made pinot noir priced at $25, it could easily be a regular occurrence.

Got anything light and fresh?
Our menu is very vegetable-focused and have numerous fresh and light dishes such as the raw curly kale salad, with artichokes, salted ricotta, sunflower seeds, lots of fresh basil and parsley and an orange dressing. We buy mussels directly from the farmer and we think they are one the best ingredients from the sea. Some days we serve them marinated, escabeche-style, and on others we might toss them through pasta or serve them in a white wine and saffron sauce with loads of fresh herbs.

I like tasty food but I don’t eat animals.
We always have plenty of options for vegetarians: as turnips and asparagus cooked in a lemony sauce, say, or the broccoli and cauliflower salad, textured with almonds, lots of fresh mint and dill and pickled stalks from the cauliflower. Vegetables are the backbone of our menu and will always take centre-stage whether cooked and served on their own or paired with a small amount of carefully selected meat or seafood.

Which dish is quintessentially La Pinta right now?
Beef heart with parmesan, pickled red onion and parsley. It encapsulates what La Pinta is about. We buy the hearts directly from the farmer when they’re available. It upholds our values of using underappreciated cuts of meat and only eating a small amount in a perfectly balanced tapa.

Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
Start with a Martini (they’re $15 at La Pinta) or a glass of local sparkling. And, if you have three friends to join you, move to a feed-me menu for $40 a head and request a litre of our cab sav/syrah blend, for $40. We’ll make sure you’re well fed and have tried a large portion of what we have to offer on the night

And to close?
You can’t go past a glass of 20-year-old boal Madeira and a mini-canelé spiked with Armagnac. A simple, yet very satisfying way to end a meal.

La Pinta, 791 High St, Reservoir, Wed-Fri 4pm-11pm, Sat noon-11pm, lapintareservoir.com.au, @la_pinta_reservoir

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