Like Italian food? You’re in luck. In the next few years we are going to be buried in pasta and pizza joints. Why? Because Italian is one of the few cuisines that a restaurateur and a chef can afford to sell us. Flour and water, mixed with a few eggs, deliver so much for so little. And as the price of drought-affected beef and lamb rises ever upwards, like methane gases drifting heavenwards, chefs can get away with a little of the expensive stuff and a lot of the cheap stuff.
See also the rise of meat-free, vegan restaurants, whether for humane, environmental, trend or economic reasons. Peppe’s in Bondi, Paperbark in Waterloo and Smith & Daughters in Melbourne’s Fitzroy are just the beginning. The hard-to-swallow truth is that dining out is too expensive for many of us (for good reason, but that’s beside the point). It’s getting harder to justify spending $18 for barbecued leeks with truffle purée, $28 for cuttlefish risotto with red wine, and $48 for grain-fed scotch fillet that doesn’t even come with fries (another $10, thanks).
“The restaurant as a business model is broken,” one leading chef told me recently. It’s why we’re seeing brave new concepts such as Joy in Brisbane, a 10-seater fine diner run by a husband-and-wife couple with no staff and few overheads. The only downside, they said, was that when they won Best New Restaurant in the 2020 Good Food Guide, they didn’t have any staff to celebrate with. Awww.
Other new business models include pop-ups and residencies – all care, no responsibility – and short-term collaborations. Expect, also, smaller serving portions. I asked one restaurateur why he changed from making the usual 30-centimetre-diameter pizza to a smaller pizzetta. “Because I can fit more in the oven,” he said.