Osteria at Petty Sessions is a great example of the food experiences available in Tasmania’s Huon Valley. Grounded in centuries old traditions, it sheds new light on the vibrant produce of local farmers and producers, making it the hero of each dish.
Situated in the tiny village of Franklin beside the Huon River, Osteria gains its two-pronged name from ‘osteria’, a simple Italian restaurant, and ‘Petty Sessions’, the historical purpose of the building, which was once a court of petty sessions, or minor crimes.
Husband and wife team Martino Crippa and Sofia Panfili are from Perugia in Umbria, the green heart of Italy. Arriving in Australia in 2009, Sofia and Martino are typical of the many very talented people settling in the Huon, seeing potential for growth there and enamoured by the region’s rich soils and seasonal fresh produce.
Osteria is the couple’s second restaurant in Franklin. After owning Aqua Grill for six years, they bought Petty Sessions in 2019.
Osteria @ Petty Sessions gives tribute to the traditional handmade food of their former homeland, one of the food bowls of Italy, adapted to the great fresh seasonal produce of their new homeland, the Huon Valley.
We walk through the front door to a food-lined foyer housing a cabinet of salumi, sheaves of grain, jars of preserves and of course Baci, Perugia’s most famous product. It gives us a clear message about artisan producers and chefs who are bringing the goodness of the earth to us at the table, paddock to plate.
“We put a lot of effort into sourcing,” Martino tells us. “We have a small garden, but we source everything else from the local area. We don’t buy anything processed except for flour.”
Martino reels off the heritage of his produce: potatoes from Judbury, mushrooms from Cygnet, Geeveston pork…
But he’s head chef in the kitchen and with everything sourced locally, that’s a huge message to tell each diner. So instead, their support of local producers is hand-written on a huge sheet of butchers’ paper hanging on the dining room wall: the farm, type of produce, first names of growers, and the location of where it has been produced.
‘It’s the only way for us,” says Martino. “The farmers and producers are our connection, a large number of them becoming our friends through sourcing their produce.”
“Every six weeks or so we buy a whole pig and two or three lambs,” Martino says. “So, we need to find the right place for each bit to minimise waste and to get the best we can out of it. We make sausages every six weeks and all the salumi that we use here.”
We see this nose-to-tail approach to dining in our starters, Salumi di Casa e Pane completely made in house: lonza from the loin, capocello from the Scotch fillet, salumi from shoulder and belly and coppa, an Italian version of brawn, with house made bread, focaccia and pickles.
Making all their pastas and sauces by hand, the couple also make the most of the seasons by storing, drying or preserving excess produce for use during winter.
As Covid struck and Tasmania closed its borders, the hospitality industry faced tough times. Thinking outside the square, Sofia and Martino decided to make fresh pasta kits to sell at the Farmgate Markets, held every Sunday in Hobart, a 40-minute drive away. Their diversification into ready-to-go pasta has proved extremely popular, saving their business and now comprising a substantial proportion of their turnover.
Pasta, the couple tell us, is highly regional, gnocchi originating in Umbria.
Our second dish is Gnocchi Salsicce e Funghi, the handmade gnocchi as light as clouds, enhanced by Cygnet mushrooms, house made Italian style pork sausages and a touch of aniseed from a sprinkle of flowers.
Next come mussels, sourced from an aquaculture in Spring Bay, presented in a herb broth with house sourdough.
Our line-caught Alfonsino or Redfish, a little-known deep water fish, is considered by-catch, yet it is excellent eating under Martino’s preparation as pan-fried fillets with baked potatoes and carrots laid on a bed of greens.
Of course, we’re in an area well-known for its apples, so dessert is a Gibson apple terrine with custard and spice homemade ice cream with a top hat of crostoli.
At every turn in this venue and menu, there are references to traditional Italian food yet, in a mingling of old and new, the food also speaks volumes about provenance, and the amazing produce of Sofia and Martino’s new homeland.
Deeply grounded, simply prepared from scratch, this is honest, real food bringing new life to old traditions. It’s food from the heartlands. Who could ask for anything more!
Osteria @ Petty Sessions, 3445 Huon Hwy, Franklin TAS 7113, Ph: 03 6204 2796, Open: Wed to Sat 12pm-3pm, 5pm-8:30pm
NOTE: Osteria is fully licensed, carrying a great selection of Tasmanian wines to complement their food.