Mark and Narelle Tognini have been friends of mine for about 15 years and I have been writing a newsletter for them for around the same length of time.
I've watched them grow their food empire from a small store at Milton to the present three outlets - Tognini's CafeDeli at Milton, Tognini's CafeWineBar at the State Library and the newly relaunched Tognini's Trattoria at Spring Hill.
After many years of saying he'll never open at night at Spring Hill, Mark Tognini has bitten the bullet and come up with a new look for the popular Spring Hill eatery. He's also gone back to his Italian roots, inspired by a relaxing journey through Italy last year.
The result is an eatery of which Tognini's can be proud and Brisbanites will love. In my book it's got it all - reasonable prices (mains hovering around early $20s), authentic Italian menu, good service and plenty of easy parking underneath.
If you like what you have in the restaurant, chances are you can pick up a similar combination in Tognini's packaged Turbo range and enjoy the same meal at home. There's also over 100 cheeses in the walk-in cheese room and knowledgeable staff who will guide you through the selection process if you need it. Add in some pancetta, prosciutto or jamon and you are set for a great night.
Tognini's invited Brisbane's Food Bloggers to enjoy an evening meal - Italian family style with large platters in the middle of the table. We all did our best but were defeated by the amount.
Narelle Tognini hosted the dinner and we started with a cheese platter including three of her favourites – a soft washed rind from France, dolche Italian gorgonzola and Testun di Pecora Chestnut, a hard sheep milk pecorino from Piemonte in Italy. All served with fruit bread, crackers, dried figs and candied cumquat.
Large platters of valpolicella risotto with Italian sausage and peas and creamy polenta with hickory smoked chicken were our mains. Both were delicious although the polenta really got the group talking - it was so delicious. When Chef Jason explained the ingredients - generous servings of cream and butter - the reason for the deliciousness became clear.
Dessert was a creme brulee with poached quince. A simple end to a delightful meal.
Bottom line: Great Italian in Brisbane's CBD, reasonable prices and good service. Open from breakfast to dinner seven days (except Sat/Sun - no dinner)
Spring Hill Market Place, Cnr Turbot and Boundary Streets, Spring Hill. p 3831 5300