The Italian Australian Who Opened An Italian Restaurant In Bali
Bali has become a mecca for Australians looking to make a quick business buck, but turns out there are some gems in the rough.
We holiday in Bali frequently nowadays. Bali for an Australian is like Hawaii for a Californian except much cheaper. The flights cost nothing for us, they're less than 6 hours in most cases and the island is a year round 30 degree paradise. Recently, and thanks to the Australian tourist fund injection, Bali has been developing a killer hospitality scene as well. Far away from the five star resorts and bustling shopping strips a combination innovative and classic cuisine concepts are popping up each with their own niche and each a separate and defined cuisine.
See, that last part is important because having lived in South East Asia myself, I know that classically and even in the tourist hot spots there is only two types on restaurants. Those who serve the local cuisine, and those who serve both international and local cuisine. It's the same at hotels, resorts and almost anywhere in the oriental neighborhood. This makes the refreshed foodie scene in Bali especially exciting.
I want to talk specifically today about one restaurant both my partner and I discovered last time we flew into the island paradise. It's an Italian eatery which sits on a road known for it's higher end eateries (and that only). But as I discovered that night, Da Maria is so much more than an Italian eatery.
Da Maria is actually technically owned by an Australian. Hailing from an Italian family, Maurice Terzini is known in Australia for the creation of famous eateries the Icebergs (Bondi) and Da Orazio. In addition to this the claimed "Lazarus of Australian Dining" is also involved in music, design and fashion. But Terzini's true success comes from his willingness to innovate. His first establishment in Melbourne, Caffe e Cucina, is a testament to that vision, being one of the founding members of Melbourne's today vibrant coffee scene and embracing art and fashion as a tool of hospitality.
The Terzini family bounced between Melbourne and Abruzzo several times during the 80s before immigrating officially. Italy at the time was experiencing a transition period. With many older Italians having grown up under the highly conservative Mussolini administration and many younger Italians being born into the Republican Italy of post 1946. The 1980s saw the introduction of socialism with terrorism and conflicts becoming rife as a result. But Italy also saw a cultural boom during that period. With most younger Italians embracing disco, fashion and art as a cultural outlet.
It's evident that Da Maria stays very true to this period. Upon entry the architecture and design of the restaurant is instantly stunning. Combining the lighter blues and yellows of the Mediterranean with indoor and overgrown greenery makes you feel like you're at a day club on the Amalfi and not at an eatery in South East Asia. This along with the water features and classic higher end bottle displays make Da Maria feel like an Italian wonderland.
The team at Da Maria claim the fantastic interiors have been created by Roman architects Lazzarini Pickering, which makes the experience all the more authentic. But being greeted by favourite disco hits like "Let's Dance" by David Bowie and "Whip It" by Devo only adds to that feeling of inclusive culture.
I've talked heaps about how the restaurant feels, but figuratively how does it taste? Delizioso. The menu is created and cooked by well known Bali based chef and previously of Sydney's Pier restaurant and Urchin, Steven Skelly. The menu leans into classic Italian comfort food such as pizza, pasta, seafood and starting favourites arancini, proscuitto and salumi.
My partner and I shared the arancini di riso, house made braised beef shin pappardelle, spaghetti vongole (a personal favourite) and salsiccia pizza. I have to say as well, I always love it when hand made and home made pasta is done to perfection as well. Not just during creation but when cooked as well. There are many restaurants who claim to be able to nail all house made pasta but can only get either the recipe or the cook correct. Da Maria manages to do both superbly. We especially enjoyed the spaghetti vongole during the night. But it's worth mentioning that the pizza was equally as standout. To achieve a perfectly raised crust which doesn't end up too moist in such a climate as Bali is especially exciting and the team at Da Maria does this better than any other Bali based pizzeria I've ever known.
The drinks menu in itself works in perfect symmetry with Da Maria's food menu as well. With a carefully selected and curated wine range that includes famous french hit AIX rose and of course Dom Perignon. The beer and cocktail menu's are no let down either. With the beer selection featuring a personal Bali based favourite, Stark Lager (also gluten free) and the cocktail menu featuring both Italian classics, a fantastic Icebergs collaboration menu and finally the ever present Italian choice drinks Frangelico, Grappa and house made Limoncello.
Late night Da Maria transforms into a disco, featuring both Da Maria's pizza menu and a curation of international disco-house DJs which Terzini claims blurs "the lines between club-bar-restaurant". Da Maria also claims that the sessions have a "European approach" and "is reflective of the notion that every day is a Saturday in Bali". Da Maria's late night pizza + disco sessions start at 10pm and may not be for all, but they sure as hell are enjoyable.
Overall Da Maria is reflective of the inclusive cultural street scene which Bali has been embracing in recent years. And not just the concept, but execution means that even on a Monday and Tuesday night you need to book in order to get any experience let alone a full one. It's definitely become a feature of our future holidays to the small Indonesian island. And it most definitely should be one of yours as well.
Da Maria Bali, Jl Petitenget No. 170 Badung, Bali