Three Riverina restaurants
A visit to the vast irrigated plains of the Riverina might be to taste wines from industry giants like Calabria or McWilliams, but food will be required for stamina. The area’s regional centre of Griffith has a long history of Italian migration, which explains the annual salami festival and the many old red sauce restaurants, but things are changing. The city is becoming more culturally diverse while next-gen Italians are coming home to family (and cheaper real estate) after training in the big smoke. The rest of the district feels more Anglo, but with access to great produce from within this mighty food bowl there’s plenty to ensure you’ll eat as well as you drink.
Griffith’s dining scene was kicked up a notch when little Luke Piccolo decided he’d had enough of Sydney and returned to the bosom of his family. He’d been doing more than enjoying the harbour views while away. Chef training, including a stage at Bentley Restaurant and Bar under Brent Savage, characterises his cooking as strongly as his obsession with produce so local his parents grow it on their Griffith farm. Even the decor showcases recycled timbers from the area and the arancini spoons are carved by artist Hape Kiddle from nearby Yenda.
Address: 482 Banna Avenue, Griffith. Telephone: +61 2 6962 3777
Three thousand litres of milk from Riverina cows and goats become cheese every week at this tiny town’s new enterprise. When Charles Sturt University closed its Wagga Wagga cheese factory in 2011, a push to keep the manufacture going in the region saw former CSU employee, lifelong cheese maker and microbiologist Barry Lillywhite open this buzzing cafe and factory with his hospitality trained son, Anton Green. Crowdfunding the conversion of a cavernous IGA and help from the local Men’s Shed to make the tables saw the mission accomplished. Cheeses are based on classic styles but there’s also a range flavoured with Australian native ingredients such as bush tomato and lemon myrtle. Cheese boards come with creative accompaniments and there’s a compact local wine list.
Address: 87 Cowabbie Street, Coolamon. Telephone: +61 2 6927 3757
Who knew the Best Western in Wagga had a half decent restaurant? Yes, even one where people get dressed up and take serious dates. Well, it does. Drag your expectations up from the bitumen driveway and settle in to the comfortably corporate looking dining room. The menu is about skillfully handled proteins, subtle Asian or Italian touches and serious technique. The wine list is dominated by local gear but you can go all out with a magnum of Pol Roger. And if all that hasn’t been enough of a head-f—k, order the milk chocolate “truffle” with tonka bean gelato and set your phone to video.
Address: 82 Tarcutta Street, Wagga Wagga. Telephone: +61 2 6923 4100