Bringing the soul of rural Italy to the heart of regional Australia
Sitting on the corner of a quiet country town is the rustic Italian locanda, known as Antica Australis. Run by couple, Paolo and Kelly Picarazzi, the Ciociarian slow food locanda and providore is a reason in itself to jump in the car for a five-hour trip to the charming town of Carcoar.
Kelly, originally from Orange and Paolo from Ciociaria (pronounced cho-sha-ria) in Italy, met whilst they were both working overseas in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The pair moved to Australia together in 2013 and landed on an opportunity to good to pass up; to be able to open their very own Italian eatery that aligned with Paolo’s passion for Italian food from Ciociaria; the ancient Italian hidden food and wine region in central Italy.
“Ciociaria was once the favoured foodie destination of the ancient Roman emperors, who loved its forests full of wild venison, wild boar and forest truffles, its plentiful olive groves, vineyards and eminently drinkable wines.
“The original name of what is now known as Italy was Víteliú. The Italic tribes were conquered by the ancient Romans circa 300 BC but their spirit lives on in their food, stories, music and dialect. Paolo has brought a little of the wild Ciociarian spirit to the untamed ancient southern land we now call home.”
Setting up shop in the recently restored heritage building built in 1927, which originally operated as the local haberdashery store. Take one step inside, and you’ll be transported to authentic Italian countryside; you’re forgiven if you forget that you’re actually in a small country town of NSW.
The space is complete with soft European tunes playing in the background, a minimally designed interior boasting exposed brick and custom-made timber tables created by local farmer and furniture maker, Tom Baker of TK Reclaimed.
“We’ve styled Antica Australis in the traditional style of Paolo’s home region of Ciociaria; in the ‘art of the poor.’ That means that everything has been selected with thought and with care. The poor may not have much, but everything they do have has great personal meaning and is much loved.
“Everything inside Antica has been hand-crafted by local artisans. Starting with the incredible restoration of the building itself – the exposed original bricks, the preserved wooden floors, and the ceiling beams.”
So, what is a locanda?
“A locanda is a local, casual dining establishment where everyone is warmly welcomed and where you are encouraged to feel right at home. It’s a very traditional regional Italian concept of an inn, designed to provide meals for weary travellers looking to rest and revive their spirits. Carcoar was an original stop on the old Cobb & Co track, so it’s the perfect alignment of rural life in Australia and Italy.”
Antica Australia derives from the original Latin term of reference in the old world for Australia and stands for ‘the ancient south,’ which resonates with Paolo’s ancient homeland in Italy, Ciociaria.
We were lucky enough to experience the authentic taste of the Italian mountaintop village in late July, with their Italian Medieval Banquet or Banchetto Medievale; focussing on seasonal, fresh and local produce.
Antica Australis’ XMAS in July feast recreated authentic medieval-era dishes from Ciociaria with a five-course set menu. The first course or Primo, we were served Frutta secca con formaggi misti; dried fruit and a selection of hard cheeses. Followed by the Secondo, Fritata alle Erbe; traditional fried herb omelette and Zuppa povera con fagioli e ceici; soup of the poor with beans and chickpeas served with fried bread.
Up next, for the third (and main) course, we sampled the Maiale arrosto con cavola verzato, olive cipolla e salsa allo zafferano; roast rolled spiced pork with purple cabbage, olives and onions with a saffron sauce.
To finish the feast, we wrapped up with Ricotta di capra con miele e nocciole abbinate con ciambellino al vino; locally sourced goat’s milk ricotta with honey and hazelnuts served with sugared wine biscuits and a traditional medieval warmed spiced wine.
Each dish serves as a flavour explosion of locally sourced ingredients paired with traditional recipes from Paolo’s homeland.
The cosy space is currently only operating on weekends and is available to book out for a maximum of 12 guests whilst COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.
Get out and experience the authentic dining of a remote Italian village without having to even leave the state. Take a long weekend to pause and enjoy all the small-town offerings available in the charming historic village of Carcoar.