I have an obvious inherent bias towards Italian food. Due to my very traditional father, it was the only cuisine I experienced until I was about 18 years old. This wasn’t exactly a hardship, with things like fresh pasta, homemade salami (I still can’t eat shop bought), roast quail, osso buco, braised artichokes, knockout tiramisu and the like being regular features on Mamma Rosa’s menu. But I’ve decided that Australia over the last 30 years, also has developed this bias. I recently have been sending these write ups to a friend in London who left Australia some years back and other than Tetsuyas, the names he recognised, or asked if they were still around and got a positive, were the Italian ones – Australia’s love of Italian food has led to some impressive longevity in the restaurant stakes. In the inner city, Buon Ricordo, Lucio’s, Beppi’s, Bambini Trust, Buzo, Otto, A tavola, for instance, have all clocked up serious mileage, some of them two decades (do restaurants starting with B have higher survival rates?). And then you’ve got all the suburban staples like La Perla, Il Piave, Grappa, Il Perugino, La Rustica, Il Vicolo, some of which have been open since my parents migrated here.
These are the pasta dishes to look out for, in no particular order
The slow cooked 24 hour ragu Bolognese at Sopra
The vincisgrassi at Buzo (worthy of a scene from When Harry Met Sally)
The truffled egg fettucini at Buon Ricordo
The timballo Napolitano at Buon Ricordo
(And while you’re at it, the rigatoni with salted rock cod at Buon Ricordo, not always there but appears annually)
The pappardelle with bone marrow ragu at Pendolino
The crab tagliolini at Lucio’s
The white mushroom, burnt butter and truffle pecorino risotto at Mercato e Cucina
The pappardelle with oxtail ragu at Via Alta
The fresh egg tagliatelle at my mothers (I’ll let you know when I get it right, WIP)
And on the off chance that Giovanni Pilu reads this, keep that malloreddus with crab and guanciale please.
Now I usually get abuse / looks of horror when I say this, but Sydney Italian is better than Melbourne Italian. Stop it, yes it is. Try as I might, I can’t come up with a list of ‘go to dishes’ in Melbourne like that. I adored the crab and nettle pasta at Bottega, went back a couple more times especially for it, and the duck risotto at Lupino was fabulous, why did you take them off the menu? I’m not saying there aren’t good Italian restaurants, there are plenty, but not the stayers on the menus (fickleness down south, or boring-ness up north?). Speaking of Melbourne, if you do want some of the great Calabrese cuisine I’ve grown up with, Sarti gets a big tick from me.
I had the pleasure recently, thanks to a dear friend, of attending a small dinner with Antonio Carluccio. He was very charming and entertaining, clearly a huge ladies man back in the day, and it was lovely to hear his life story. That night we had this wonderful Pasta Forno, and the recipe actually appears on his website. www.antonio-carluccio.com/Pasta_Imbottita_con_Vegetali_al_Forno. I had a go at making it on the weekend – its not a pasta dish, its an extravaganza. It got thumbs up all round in the Napoli Household.
While I’m at it, might as well turn this into a bumper Italian issue. Fabulous summary in the SMH recently. Yes, Pasticceria Papa’s ricotta cake is the best you’ll find anywhere in Sydney. Love Tamborrino’s rum baba. Surprised they didn’t mention Sulfaro’s cannoli? And I’ve been going to Ranieri’s deli with my mum since I began to walk. Do yourself a favour and get some of their truffle pecorino. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/buon-appetito-a-guide-to-italian-sydney-20120924-26g97.html
Have a fabulous week. Buon appetito!
Buon Ricordo 108 Boundary Street Paddington ph (02)9360 6729
Cafe Sopra 7 Danks Street Waterloo ph (02) 9699 3174
Lucio’s Italian Restaurant 47 Windsor Street Paddington ph (02)9380 5996
Pendolino 412-414 George Street Sydney ph (02)9231 6117
Buzo 3 Jersey Road Woollahra ph (02)9328 1600
Via Alta, 197 High Street, Willoughby, Ph (02) 99581110
Pilu at Freshwater Moore Road Freshwater ph (02)9938 3331