The Hardgrave Road dining strip is set to welcome Italian cuisine back to its midst when Mario’s opens in mid-to-late September. The restaurant is the newest culinary concept from the Luigi’s Italian and Mama Taco team, who are currently refashioning the old Luigi’s space into an aperitivo bar-meets-experimental Italian restaurant hybrid. Mario’s will see Dario Manca (formerly of ZA ZA TA) take the reins as head chef, working alongside executive chef Raffaele Persichetti on a menu of envelope-pushing eats. Think clean, inventive and surprising flavours that take in the spectrum of Italian gastronomy and imbue it with tasteful elements of worldly cuisines – we’re told to expect combinations yet unseen in Brisbane. The fun will start in the late afternoon, when Mario’s opens as a street-side aperitivo bar for sips of amari, grappa and spritzes alongside a selection of appetite-whetting antipasti. This offering bleeds into the a la carte and tasting menus that showcase Mario’s current selection of ever-evolving dishes that will be shaken up fortnightly. Wine will also be a big-ticket drawcard, with an approachable selection of vino encompassing high-roller barolos and nebbiolos as well as natural Italian grapes grown in Australia. As for the space, the crew are giving it a little touch up – we’re talking plants, posters and aperitivo paraphernalia adorning the walls. We’ll have a closer look at Mario’s when it opens at the end of the month.