A dilapidated warehouse in Adelaide has been transformed into a sophisticated yet casual Italian-style restaurant and bar. By Kerryn Ramsey
It was restaurateur Simon Kardachi—of Adelaide’s Press, Melt and Bread & Bone, among others—who found the site of Osteria Oggi: a narrow shop at the front opening up to a warehouse at the back.
“It was a true interior project,” says Dave Bickmore, who, with Graham Charbonneau, founded Studio-Gram, a design company. “Pretty much every surface was in such poor condition that they were all refinished or built in some way.” Charbonneau adds: “There was only one wall in the entire restaurant that stills shows an original surface.”
The warehouse section has a saw-tooth roof that lets in plenty of light, while the front of the building is long, narrow and dark.
“Clients enter through the narrow front and continue into a space that opens up dramatically and is filled with natural light,” says Charbonneau.
The main dining area is a balance of materials in neutral colours. The flooring is rough travertine tiles designed to age gracefully. Repeating arches over private booths mirror the arches that are frequently seen in the squares of Rome and Florence. Long timber tables pay homage to family, community and lazy Sunday lunches that are at the heart of Italian dining.
All the timber work is American oak, inspired by a single chair. “One of the first things we selected was a Ross Didier dining chair,” says Bickmore. “It was made of American oak and that influenced our timber selection. The Didier chairs and stools are the only element that’s proprietary; everything else is all custom.”
“Copper and brass is a popular trend we wanted to avoid,” says Charbonneau. “We used galvanised steel for the overhead planter beds to introduce some older craft techniques. We also had a team of plasterers apply hard set plaster and wet dash render.”
Other touches work a treat. The open kitchen is beautifully displayed on a mezzanine level while a private basement dining room containing a 10-person table could be straight out of one of the Godfather movies. There’s also a 22 metre-long concrete bar—allegedly the longest in Adelaide—where clients are encouraged to sit on both sides. The signage by Tristan Kerr (tristankerr.com.au) is a beautifully understated element.
One of the big surprises with Osteria Oggi is the way it transitions from day to night. Lunch service is bright and friendly thanks to the abundance of natural light. Dinner service in the evening is moodier with lighting from custom overheads that have a 1960s industrial Italian feel and Jieldé wall lights.
“From the street, there’s an interesting play of light and dark,” says Bickmore. “You could easily walk right past but if you do look in, it’s very inviting and kind of intriguing.”