According to Stefano di Blasi, there’s a bit of a rivalry between north and south Italy. Something akin to our own State of Origin, but based around food, rather than footy. Because of this, Stefano (a northerner) had always dismissed Rome as a tourist city – believing the best food could be found outside the capital. All of that changed when Stefano reconnected with old hospitality buddy Flavio Tripepi and caught up with him in Rome – Flavio’s home turf. Flavio showed Stefano the hidden beauty of the Eternal City, taking him beyond the tourist traps and introducing him to the local street-food scene and the kind of eateries only a local would know about. Safe to say the experience helped Stefano foster a newfound love for Roman fare and its beguiling simplicity – so much so that Stefano convinced Flavio to relocate to Brisbane and help him set up a restaurant based around the cuisine. Having nailed laid-back casual dining with his family-friendly restaurant concept Salt Meats Cheese, Stefano and SMC co-owner Edoardo Perlo were ready to level up with something more singular, high end and suitable for the late-night dining crowd. Over a three-day brainstorming session, the trio came up with the menu, aesthetic and name of their dream venue. It was here that Eterna was born.
After a three-month search, the team managed to snag one of the hottest restaurant spaces on the market – the former home of LONgTIME on Ann Street. The venue was ideal for the group’s vision for Eterna – moody, sophisticated and imbued with the scintillating all-night energy of New York’s dining scene. A period of renovation saw much of the old wooden bar front, chandeliers, pendant lights and plants removed, while the shutters were replaced by curtains – with Stefano and co. preferring a minimal palette of materials predicated on exposed brick, concrete and a smattering of timber. These cosmetic adjustments were made to give the venue a feeling of timelessness, or rather a feeling of time stopping once you’re inside (the alleyway entrance is still set up for those seeking fresh air and a casual tipple). While a number of large group tables remain, there is a greater abundance of couple-friendly seating, with cushy leather banquettes and booths making it all too easy to settle in and get comfortable.
For the uninitiated, Roman cuisine is, at its core, a simplified and pure distillation of Italian fare’s best elements. Most dishes are made using only a few ingredients (sometimes three, but rarely more than five), favouring top-quality produce that speaks for itself. Eterna’s menu (conceived by head chef Francesco Vitagliano) runs the gamut of Roman delicacies, from street food (including the staple suppli al telefono – fried-rice croquettes that boast a heart of melted mozzarella cheese and a dollop of tomato sauce) to desserts (the crostata di rocotta e visciole is a traditional Roman-style ricotta and cherry cheesecake influenced by the city’s Jewish community). Found in between these two poles is a selection of fresh house-made pasta dishes, including three quintessential options (rigatoni alla carbonara, tonnarello cacio e pepe and bucatini all’amatriciana) and some that break away slightly from the Roman mould (the pacchero with Moreton Bay bugs and clams, for example). Mains are also a prominent fixture, with hearty eats including rosemary-marinated chargrilled lamb chops (abbachio alla scottadito), slow-roasted pork-belly roll (prochetta di Ariccia), and Tasmanian mussels simmered with a chopped Roma tomato, garlic, chilli and white-wine sauce (zuppa di cozze). The Eterna team are eager to make the venue a place where people can linger longer after their meal, and the bar offers plenty of excuses to stick around. Eterna’s wine list boasts 130 bottles divided by blend and region, encompassing everything from chianti to ultra-rare ‘super’ Tuscan wines. If wine isn’t your thing, perhaps Eterna’s signature cocktail range will be more up your alley. Roman riffs on the classic spritz, negroni, margarita and whisky sours (the latter boasting truffle honey!) are the perfect enticers to linger once the plates have been cleared.
Eterna is now open to the public. Check out the Stumble Guide to find opening hours and contact details.