107 Cambridge St, Collingwood, VIC
03 9419 4449
Project 49 brings Beechworth to the ’burbs, delivering a taste of northeast Victoria to Collingwood. The wine bar, restaurant and deli has become a one-stop shop for locals and visitors alike, offering all who wander by a chance to indulge in not only a delicious meal but carefully crafted coffee, weird and wonderful wine and all the ingredients that one would need to whip up a feast.
Rocco Esposito and Lisa Pidutti are the masterminds behind the project. After Rocco’s stint as a wine director for Vue de Monde, the couple moved to Beechworth with the intention of growing a biodynamic vineyard from their spot on 49 Ressams Lane. While this eventually happened, they also ran Wardens Food and Wine for a time, and opened a small cafe, which shares the Project 49 name.
One would think that’s enough for the pair of hospitality veterans. However, when architect friends of theirs started work on the Foy and Gibson re-development on Cambridge Street, Collingwood, they jumped at the chance to offer Melburnians something a little different, opening a deli and wine bar first, and then a restaurant.
The entire concept is designed to appeal to the everyday eater. Flavours across both spaces are simple yet refined, approachable enough for a mid-week dinner or a special occasion. In this vein, ingredients that sit on the kitchen bench are also available in the deli, meaning that adventurous cooks can attempt to re-create delicious dishes in the comfort of their own home.
Those who decide to let the experts do the cooking are looked after by Head Chef, Tim Newitt and his team. Tim joined Rocco and Lisa as an apprentice at Wardens in 2005, before venturing off to work at Craft and Co. and Cutler & Co. He returned to the fold to take on the head chef role at the deli-cafe, before adding the restaurant to his cap.
With a culinary philosophy influenced by the farm lifestyle, Tim’s dishes are modern Australian, with a healthy dash of Italian thrown in. At the cafe, fried polenta is served with eggplant caponata, nduja and fior di latte for breakfast, while over in the restaurant, slow-cooked lamb breast is complemented by flavours of anchovy, rosemary milk and rainbow chard.
To bring these dishes to life, Tim, Rocco and Lisa work with the same suppliers they did at Wardens, building on the relationships they established all those years ago. In fact, the importance of connection and community is the common thread throughout the entire Project 49 concept – locals are well and truly looked after and in return, have embraced the venue as one of their own.
It wouldn’t be a Victorian or Italian venue without wine. When you consider Rocco and Lisa’s wine backgrounds, it’s no surprise that the offering is both considered and curated. The 100-strong list is made up of varieties primarily from the northeast of the state and includes 25 back vintages that are not easily found elsewhere. There’s also selection of their favourite drops available to take home.
Project 49 is quite literally a foodie’s one-stop-shop. From coffee and breakfast in the cafe to lunch using the ingredients in the deli and dinner at the restaurant, it looks after every culinary need. No wonder the locals love it.