Classic regional Italian with a heritage edge comes to Perth’s CBD. Come for the pasta, stay for the good times.

With the opening of Stampa! reimagined Print Hall is introducing Perth to the sophistication of old-school Italian dining, where timeless charm and culinary heritage impress. Under the direction of executive chef Luca Minetti and head chef Paolo del Monte, the menu features lesser-known regional Italian dishes rarely seen in Perth. 

Take, for example, fritters of wild mushroom pâté, grappa and Fontina cheese, or ravioli filled with sausage, pear and amaretti; a dish that featured heavily in chef Paolo’s childhood in Bergamo, a city in Italy’s northern region of Lombardy. 

It’s a menu that confirms Stampa! is deserving of its exclamation mark and home in heritage-listed Print Hall, where journos once punched out their scoops on manual typewriters. 

Among burnished wooden floors, lush greenery and luxurious booth seating, enthusiasts can drink their way across Italy’s best wine regions, while those who love a good cocktail will enjoy creations like a Passionfruit Paloma. 

We sat down with head chef Paolo del Monte to learn more about what Stampa! brings to Perth’s thriving Italian dining scene.

Tell us more about how you became involved with Stampa!
I have been in Australia for the past 10 years, nine in Perth. I have a long history with Cristiano Fraulini, Night Owl Entertainment’s group food and beverage manager. We worked together at Davvero Cafe e Cucina in Floreat Forum nine years ago and also at Monk Brewery in Fremantle where I was sous-chef. Cristiano called me and got me on board. We both realised what was missing in the Italian food offering in the CBD: something different to the iconic dishes you get in tourist spots in Italy and that are recreated outside Italy. Something more real, more authentic.

You have an impressive résumé; can you tell us about your experience as a chef?
I have 24 years of international experience, having worked for all my career in four- to five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and Rosette, between Italy, London and Australia. I have also worked as head chef of Canteen Pizza in Cottesloe and Davvero in Perth.

Stampa! only recently opened and it’s already pretty hard to get a booking. Were you surprised at the reaction?
I believe people are seeking a quality Italian dining experience, something removed from the casual pizza and pasta combo. Here, we have had people who are going out on dates, having business lunches and something a bit more formal. People want a bit more from their dining experience.

There’s no shortage of Italian restaurants in Perth. How does your menu differ from others?
First of all, we make all our pasta in house. We use two different pasta making tools, depending on if the pasta comes from the north or the south of Italy, to make four different types of pasta, whether it is a short or a long type of pasta, or a pasta that requires a filling. This is already unique.

Then we offer real, authentic dishes that come from the diverse regional cuisines of Italy. There are so many dishes that you can’t find in Perth – dishes like sciatt e funghi, which is wild mushroom pâté with grappa and buckwheat-battered Fontina cheese. The cheese is dipped in a batter made with buckwheat flour and grappa which gives it a unique texture and flavour, and then it is deep-fried. This dish is made in the alpine area of Valtellina in the north of Italy, 200 kilometres from my home city of Bergamo. Bresaola and Pizzoccheri also come from there.

In my hometown, we also cook our polenta differently. It’s normally cooked with water, but we cook it with milk and add cheese, usually parmesan. We serve this type of polenta with our beef cheeks at Stampa!

The lamb terrine on your menu is another preparation that stands out. Tell us about that.
Yes, terrina di agnello e mele is slow-cooked Suffolk lamb shoulder with mint and grated apple to give it some sweetness and crunch. It’s an old Italian dish which is served warm because some of the fat melts away when it is warm. It is served on a celeriac purée. I treat celeriac with respect; It’s an amazing vegetable. I like to keep things simple in the kitchen. I don’t like too many flavours in one dish.

What would you say is Stampa!’s signature dish?
It’s casoncelli alla bergamasca, a traditional ravioli from Bergamo filled with Italian sausage, pear, amaretti and sultanas, sautéed in butter, sage and pancetta. It’s another dish that you can only find at Stampa! We thought it would be great to introduce it to Perth.

It comes from my hometown and is very old, dating back to 1386. Legend says that a stingy person in a festival wanted to combine a sweet and salty taste in one dish. Probably the truth is that this dish was a clever way to use leftover beef and pork, then other ingredients have been added. Nowadays, everyone has their own version of the recipe.

I grew up with this dish with my mum cooking it. My mum is an amazing cook. My family on my dad’s side is from Rome and my mum’s side from Calabria. She would be cooking all day long as far back as I can remember. I would like to pass these dishes on to my daughter, Valentina, who is just five months old.

What about pizza? Given your experience at Canteen Pizza are you tempted to add it to the menu?
We serve very good pizzas in other areas of Print Hall. As we want to keep Stampa! a real authentic restaurant, we don’t serve pizza. If you go to a ristorante in Italy, you won’t find pizza. Pizza is served in pizzerias.

How did you feel about working at Print Hall, a building with such great heritage?
I have worked in ancient buildings in Italy and London. In Italy every building is old, so I am used to it. I have worked in buildings that are 300 years old, and I do respect old buildings. The kitchen here is a good kitchen though, and very workable. Night Owl provided me with all the necessary equipment to develop my menu.

Tell us more about your team in the kitchen.
I built the team together with the executive chef of Print Hall, Luca Minetti, and Night Owl managers Cristiano Fraulini and Tyler Brooks.

There are a bunch of Italian chefs there as well as a young French man and a young local chef. We are always hunting for more talented chefs, though.

How much freedom did you have in compiling the menu?
Cristiano took care of the wine list and put me in charge of the food offering because he knew the direction I would take. He has a lot of trust in me. I have also shared ideas with Luca, and we came up with the current Stampa! menu.

The Print Hall is an iconic building, can you tell us more about the restaurant space.
We have put in the space some custom-made elegant booths and kept the old marble tables that fit the space very well. It was a combined effort by the whole Night Owl management team to be fair. It is now a space that comfortably seats 75 diners.

And what has the approach been with the wine list?
I have to bring Cristiano into the conversation here. Italy, as you know, is the largest wine producer on the planet, and there is so much diversity of variety, regions and tastes. This was a unique opportunity to showcase all that. So yes, the wine list is all Italian, but there is also a cellar list available throughout the whole venue that showcases the best of Australian and West Australian winemaking.

Where would you suggest guests kick on afterwards?
Bob’s Bar upstairs of course. It’s such an iconic space, it’s probably the most known rooftop bar in Perth.

Print Hall, Brookfield PLace, 125 St Georges Terrace, Perth;; @stampa.perth

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