A LITTLE pocket of Europe has landed on King Street in Newcastle with the arrival of Arno.
Situated at the site previously occupied by King Street Deli, Arno is the creation of Sydney-born, Newcastle-based chef Will O'Brien whose long-held dream has been to open his own Italian-style deli and wine bar.
O'Brien has spent the past decade shifting between Sydney and Newcastle, working at The Landing a decade ago under the ownership of the Margan family before returning to Sydney to work in Merivale-owned kitchens such as Establishment Bar and Coogee Pavilion.
Now settled in Newcastle with his wife and young son, Arno brings all of his passions together: quality cheese, meat and wine.
"This has definitely been the dream," O'Brien tells Weekender.
"We knew we wanted to open a deli with wine, it was just a matter of choosing when and then finding a site.
"This space was perfectly set up and ready to go.
"It is what I have been wanting to do for a long time and it's a great location."
The space is small and intimate, with seating indoors at the newly installed spotted gum bar.
Outdoors, on the sidewalk, is the perfect spot to watch the passing parade over a glass of wine and a charcuterie board.
For O'Brien, Arno is about bringing together his favourite food and wine experiences from his time spent in Italy on holiday.
It is a deli and wine bar, with the option to either drop in and pick from cheese and meats in the cabinet to take home, or dine in.
"My wife and I have been over to Italy a few times and realised there's not really anyone in the city doing an eat-in deli," he says.
"That's what we wanted to do, create a place where you have really nice meats and cheese, which you can either buy and take home or sit here and eat over a glass of wine."
The cabinet is filled with a mix of Italian, Australian and French cheese, as well as prosciutto from Italy and meats from Hunter-based suppliers.
"I am trying to use local suppliers where we can, so the wagyu bresaola and the fennel and chilli lonza is from Michael Robinson at Hungerford Meat Co at Branxton," he says.
"The mortadella comes from a smallgoods producer in Sydney called Pinos, the prosciutto is from Italy and the serrano is from Spain but we do try to use local products when we can."
Cheese board options include a choice of two cheeses and two meats served with grapes, quince paste, bread and chutneys for $36, with the option to add on extras.
The same product is used in Arno's generously sized paninis which are built on a Northern Italy version of focaccia known as schiacciata which O'Brien describes as a thinner version of the bread.
"All of the ingredients - the meats that are on the sandwiches - are the ones from the cabinet.
"It's all the best produce."
Choices include truffled mascarpone with mushroom, smoked mozzarella and basil; or mortadella with pistachio crema, stracciatella and pistachio.
Arno is open from 8am Tuesday to Saturday and there are plans to eventually run dinner service.
"The plan long-term when we open nights is to have a few pastas on the menu, seafood - nothing too crazy because it is a small kitchen - but you will be able to come in and have dinner," O'Brien says.
"We will have things like scallops and crudites with raw salmon, and a few pastas. That is certainly the plan."
There are 14 wines by the glass on the menu showcasing wine from Italy and Italian varietals grown in Australia, and the offering will change regularly.
You will also find coffee from Sydney roastery The Little Marionette and delicious cannoli pastries on the menu at Arno, as well as a range of pantry items that O'Brien has handpicked.
"The idea was we wanted to offer products that no one else really has," he says.
"We have Martelli pasta, lots of nice olive oils and balsamics.
"If people are missing something from Italy they can come in here and find it."
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