Please note, this restaurant ceased operating in early August 2013.

Building a restaurant’s reputation around offal is a risky business and can provoke strong reactions. Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons, in Melbourne’s Crown complex did just that when it opened, way back in 2008.

Created in the style of a Roman trattoria, GAS (for short) offers a range of traditional Italian dishes – everything from cured meats to risotto and, of course, a variety of pasta. The duo behind its establishment, chefs Maurice Terzini and Robert Marchetti, combined their Italian sensibilities with a reverence for sustainable, local, quality produce. Marchetti’s influence is most notable in the ‘salumi’ bar, various cured cuts of Berkshire pork, sliced fresh.

Sustainability is an interesting concept in dining – and one gathering more interest from chefs and diners alike. The great Yoshihiro Narisawa (see the blog on Narisawa here) was honoured by the San Pellegrino ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ award for most sustainable restaurant, focusing on sustainably sourced produce, revolving around local, foraged ingredients and sustainable fish stocks. How does one make meat ‘sustainable’? Perhaps by using almost every element of the carcass?

On a rainy winter Melbourne lunch, the restaurant felt a little cold – due in no small part to the surfeit of tiled surfaces. Settling into a banquette seat, with a smallish window behind, the view of the dining floor started to grow on Greedy Girl, it was atmospheric at least.

The table settings are very rustic. A printed tablemat menu, a box of cutlery to the side. Ordering some dishes to share with a friend in from Sydney, we sipped on a more than decent glass of red and tucked in to a lovely basket of herby focaccia and olive bread.

First up was arancini. These were vegetarian, featuring silverbeet, spinach and parmesan cheese, coated in risotto and lightly crumbed. They were fresh, slightly salty and a good starting point for a cold weather lunch.
Greedy Girl, not eating a lot of pasta in her daily life, was craving comfort food. She ordered tagliatelle, while her Sydney friend managed to be talked into trying some of the house specialty – plumping for lamb’s brains (pictured above).

These came out first – coated in parmesan crumbs, an Italian-inspired tartare sauce (although it was hard to discern what made this particularly ‘Italian’) and a pile of greens – rocket and some spring onions. The brains were cooked very well and needed the vinegary tang of the sauce as well as the lightness of the greens to cut through the very rich taste. Greedy Girl, who loves her foie gras and has – in recent years – been able to once again embrace sweetbreads doesn’t often try brains or kidneys. This was a nice change but she was glad she wasn’t trying to eat the whole dish – it would have had too much of a ‘sameness’ after a while.

We then shared the pasta, served all’Amatriciana, with a veritable pork paradise. The slow-cooked tomato sauce featured both pancetta and guanciale. It was delicious, rich and very satisfying.

We’d drained our wine by this point and the very friendly staff were more than delighted to bring us another glass that we then shared – time ticking away and the rest of the working day beginning to encroach.

This was a very tasty experience. With the watery light coming through the windows, the initial impressions of the dining room weren’t all that flash but settling in proved to be quite enjoyable. At night, the atmosphere would be quite moody and dramatic.

There is certainly enough variety on the menu here to cater for all tastes – vegetarian included. Greedy Girl looks forward to going back and trying more.

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