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Rosa’s Kitchen

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So.. it’s been a long time between blogging. It’s just simply too time consuming.. coupled with the guilt that I have all these other things I should do and don’t do, namely work and tax. But, Saturday night’s experience was so delightful I really want to just tell everyone how wonderful it was.

Rosa’s Kitchen.

Rosa Mitchell has returned to the CBD and is now dishing up delicious Sicilian fare in Punch Lane.

Small intimate venue, seating approx 40.

Chalkboard menu which rotates every fortnight or so. Antipasto, 4 pastas, 5 mains.

I love a small menu, quality over quantity any day I say.

We started with the antipasto platter.

antipasto - small $22

antipasto – small $22

We opted for the small serve, which was pretty substantial. There was fried ricotta, cauliflower fritter, charg-rilled eggplant, pickled zucchini, olives, some cured meat (I forget what!) and a tomato salad. Everything was fresh and delicious. Wonderful start.

For the main affair, I couldn’t decide between a pasta and a main, so the wonderful Miss M went halvies with me so we could have the best of both worlds.

orichette with cauliflower and anchovies - $22

orichette with cauliflower, saffron and anchovies – $22

The orchiette was cooked perfectly al dente. The dish was well balanced and very rustic. Simplicity at it’s best.

garlic stuffed calamari, green beans - $32

stuffed calamari, green beans – $33

Oh. My. God. Heaven. After my first bite of the calamari I wished I wasn’t sharing. I’m not sure what the calamari was stuffed with exactly but I think perhaps some breadcrumb mix with garlic? This dish was executed perfectly. I couldn’t think of a way to improve it.

We ended with a massive slice of chocolate and orange cake which was big enough for the three of us to share. It was perfectly light and fluffy.

Service was impeccable, and the wine list was brief but thoughtful. We drank Soave $10.50 (my favourite!) and Grillo $9.50.

Rosa’s kitchen. Simple, but stunning. Exceptional value, I can’t wait to go back.

Rosa,

will you be my nonna?

x

-Jess

map

22 Punch Lane, CBD

Open:  Tues-Sat, Lunch  and Dinner.

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Written by glutamatejess

March 18, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Espresso Alley

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Espresso Alley

5 Separation St

Northcote Victoria 3070

Hours: Tues – Fri 7am – 4pm, Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

Espresso Alley sits right opposite Northcote Shopping Centre on Separation Street, in a refurbished house with a deceptively small shop front which accommodates 5 bike posts, for those inclined to bike it.

Full of natural light and fitted with a mezzanine level, the illusion of space works in Espresso Alley’s favour. For those on the lower level of the cafe, it gives a whole new meaning to “looking up” to the coffee machine.

With the food-prep area proudly located in the middle of the cafe, the piadinas, tiramisus and vegan-friendly friands are displayed for all to see.

The quirky tables were a highlight for me, simple wooden tables given a lick of black paint with silhouettes of various food-related implements left bare and a clear lacquer applied over the handiwork. I guess the Vinces Mazzone & Colosimo, or their decorators, have a good eye!

Food-wise, they’ve stuck to a short, simple menu which includes toasties, somethingh I consider an entirely underrated cafe food.

I chose to have smashed avocado on toast, a personal favourite of mine. My avo was mashed to the perfect consistency of “smashed”, smooth enough to spread chunky enough that I can spear a hunk of avocado should I choose to, the cheese was salty and herby and perfect and the mixture was worked through so I couldn’t throw anything out.

The only letdown was that my toast was slightly burnt around the edges and difficult to cut through due to over-toasting.

In their defence, I did rock up far too early on a Saturday morning (8.30am!) on a 39 degree day.

They take great pride coffee-wise, with the barista personally coming out with my cappuccino in order to apologise for the “slight bubbles”. Apparently it’s calving season and they’re giving the cows a different feed, leading to more bubbly milk (?).

I didn’t mind. The (Coffee Supreme) coffee was fantastic overall and if the cows don’t want to cooperate,  I’m not one to shoot the barista.

Overall, I’d go back. It’s very early days yet and I can see potential.

Written by Becca Z

April 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Merchant

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Merchant
Rialto

495 Collins Street, Melbourne 3000

T:  +613 9614 7688
F:  +613 9614 7211
E:  enquiries@merchantov.com

Hours: Mon-Sat Lunch & Dinner. Closed Sunday.

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Merchant is the latest venture by Guy Grossi, adding to his empire which includes includes the fine dining institution Grossi Florentino, and adjoining Grill and  Cellar bar, and Mirka at Torlano. It is situated at the base of the newly revamped Rialto building, with a wooden boat outside to add to its Venetian theme.

Merchant is a casual restaurant – the staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and the decor colourful and unpretentious. Guy Grossi envisaged an osteria – as wiki defines where “the emphasis is generally placed on maintaining a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine.” Osteria in Italian literally means a place where the owner “hosts” people.” And the night we dined – Guy Grossi himself was only two tables away from us, hosting his guests. It is Venetian themed – to celebrate the culture of his family.

The large open kitchen churns out items at amazing efficiency from the menu which is broken down into cichetti (small eats), pasta, risotto, meats, seafood, sides and desserts.

The wine list is heavily focussed on wines from Northern Italy, with a couple of Italian beers on tap.

We begin with a Bellini – which are brought to our table, a champagne flute filled with a yummy peach puree – topped up with sparkling wine and then stirred gently at our table.

From the chicetti – we choose

Fòlpo saorio $15

Fòlpo saorio $15

The fòlpo saorio – tender slices of well marinated octopus.

Salumi $20

The mixed salumi – containing salami, prosciutto, and a couple others I can’t remember. These were nice enough, but the most impressive part was watching them being sliced to order from the large meat slicer sitting on the end of the bar.

Aranzini de zafferan $9

The aranzini de zafferan (saffron risotto balls) – were delicious. I can’t look at a menu with risotto balls and not order them. These did not disappoint, though admittedly I am very easy to please when it comes to risotto balls.

Patè de figà de anara $8

The patè de figà de anara (duck liver pate) was rich and creamy and not at all gamey. A reasonably generous serve, I really enjoyed this dish.

Spaghetti co le caparele $23

I asked our helpful waiter what he would order – and he strongly suggested we get the spaghetti co le caparele (spaghetti with clams). I wasn’t expecting much from this dish, but my god was it good. I can’t articulate how this dish was so good, but I guess my best way to describe it is simplicity at its finest. Perfectly cooked aldenti spaghetti, in such a light yet wonderful sauce of chopped tomatoes, herbs and olive oil. I’ve had so many dishes like this in the past (I’m a massive fan of pasta marinara and pasta with seafood), but this was the best I’ve had.

risoto moro $20

I had previously being mortified by squid ink, as I’m sure many have due to its unappetizing, dark, murky colour which seems to stain everything ugly. However a trip to Venice changed that, and having had a wonderful squid ink risotto there, I am a convert – although I do hate how it can leave squid ink particles  on your teeth and lips (yes had the awkward meal where I had been sitting there chatting happily, only to go to the bathroom much later to see squid ink all over lips and teeth). If it is not prepared well, or not fresh, squid ink can taste very fishy – but when done correctly, it has a wonderful fishy creaminess. This was a great specimen – and this risoto moro (squid ink risotto) was my favourite dish of the night.

Quaje a la diavola in piastra $20

Upon the recommendation of the waiter – we ordered the quaje a la diavola in piastra (grilled quail, chilli). It was flayed then grilled lightly and served with a quinelle of some form of parsley pesto. It was well cooked, and tasty enough, but it seemed to be lacking in something… When it comes to quail – I firmly believe that us Asians do it best. 🙂

For some sides, we also went the

Patate alla Veneziana $6

patate alla Veneziana (sautéed potatoes in garlic) and

Salata tridà $12

salata tridà (Venetian chopped salad).

These were both very nice – I can’t fault either of these, well cooked and great balance of flavours.

Despite Grossi’s fame, it seemed Merchant has had a relatively quiet opening with few people I’ve talked to even knowing of its existance. When I visited in December, the only post I could find of Merchant was Melbourne Culinary Journal‘s. The restaurant was busy but not full, and it was not hard to obtain a booking. Though Merchant has recently been reviewed in The Age’s Epicure (scoring 14/20), so I imagine it will quickly become more difficult to get a seat.

Jess’ Rating

Taste: 9. I have dreams of the squid ink risotto and clam spaghetti. Take me back.

Value: 9. Surpisngly cheap for the quality of the produce. Serves are not large, but that only means you can order and try more 😉

Ambience: 9.

Service: 9. Our waiter was extremely friendly and attentive. Food comes amazingly quickly

Overall: 9. Merchant isn’t a dining experience that is defining new styles or setting new trends, it is what it sets out to be – an osteria – a casual dining experience. Good, simple food, done extremely well. I love this way of eating – small plates designed to share (I’m a variety is the spice of life kinda girl, and I love the communal aspect of dining too).  Can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu!


Merchant on Urbanspoon

Written by glutamatejess

January 19, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Esposito

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162 Elgin Street Carlton 3053
(Corner Elgin Street & Drummond Street)
Phone 03 9347 9838

Lunch:  Mon-Fri  from 12 noon

Dinner: Mon-Sat from 6.00pm

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Located on the corner of Elgin and Drummond Streets lies Esposito, the restaurant by Maurie Esposito. Esposito brings us ‘seafood dining’ with a strong focus on sustainable, yet the freshest, highest quality produce, with an Italian flair.

With entrees priced between $21-26, and mains $26-$42, this place is not inexpensive. However, Esposito have a weeknight special Loaves and Fishes menu – $35 for 2 courses with a glass of wine. Available Monday to Thursday lunch and dinner. This sounded too good to be true, so we had to go for it..

We began with an amuse;

amuse-bouche

A light seaweed salad, served with toasted sesame, a delightful way to whet the appetite.

For entrees T had;

Mud Crab Tortellini in a leek and crustacean broth

This dish was perfect. Big call, but it was incredible. The hand-rolled pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, filled with fresh mud crab in a rich, warming broth. Although this was T’s dish, I ended up eating most of it.

Mud crab, avocado & green apple salad, young spinach and spinach essence

Unfortunately my entree was not as nice. The idea of this dish sounded good on paper, but in execution there was an excess of ‘greenery’. It was over-powering in a ‘grassy’ sort of flavour.

Onto mains; I had the

John Dory Fillets with calamari ragout with artichokes, watercress and lemon

John Dory Fillets and calamari ragout

The fish fillets were perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The calamari ragout was well restrained in flavour and a great accompaniment to the fish.

Fillets of King George Whiting grilled or in beer batter, thin chips and house made tartare $42

Fillets of King George Whiting grilled or in beer batter, thin chips and house made tartare

At $42 on the a la carte menu, this is the most expensive item on the menu. T was curious as to how you could make fish & chips (which is essentially what this dish is) special. My god, Esposito nailed it. This is the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Bar none. The fish was perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth tender. The house made tartare was also great. Again, I would say this dish is perfect. I cannot imagine how this dish could be better.

Note – I am a terrible blogger, I visited months ago so the menu has changed since.

.

Jess’ Ratings

Taste: 9 – high points T’s dishes, didn’t enjoy my entree though

Value: 10. With the glass of wine that accompanied the meal, $35 each for 2 courses made this meal good value. cheap. Good value is an understatement. With the quality of the produce cooked the way it was, it was really a bargain.  I believe the serves are slightly smaller in the loaves and fishes menu – and although we were not stuffed, we were perfectly satisfied.

Ambience: 9.5. Fine dining at its best. White linen table cloths, ambient background music, and just the perfect amount of mood-lighting, accentuated by the candle light on each table. A warm greeting from the staff, accompanied most importantly with a smile makes you feel instantly welcome.

Service: 9.5. Exceptional, the staff made us feel comfortable and at home.

Overall: 9.5. Wonderful.

.

Esposito has also opened a new restaurant St Peter’s in Melbourne Place at the old Canary Club with a similar menu, which I have recently visited and loved. Review to come soon.

Written by glutamatejess

November 8, 2010 at 2:12 am

Pizza Battle – Heat 2

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Welcome back to Pizza Battle! Join us on our quest to discover the best pizza in Melbourne. If you missed the post explaining how this works and the first heat then click on those there hyperlinks.

This round we have visited the following places:

1. Ladro (Fitzroy)

2. +39 (CBD)

3. I Carusi (East Brunswick)

4. Supermaxi (North Fitzroy)

1. Ladro


Ladro on Urbanspoon

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Ladro is an absolute stalwart on the Melbourne gourmet pizza scene, having opened years ago, a little after I Carusi and around the same time as Mr. Wolf to usher in Melbourne’s new age of gourmet pizza. It still carries its hefty reputation into this food battle, and is showing no signs of slowing down, having just opened another Ladro outlet in Greville Street, Prahran, alongside its Gertrude Street institution.If we were intimidated by reputations then this pizza battle would be much more difficult, such is the quality in this fair city of ours, so Jess and I arrived with an open mind. I had heard things about bad service and was prepared for it, but it didn’t eventuate. Firstly, Ladro is not uncomfortable, combining a minimalist design with reasonable space. The night that we were there it was full but not super packed and the service was fast, efficient and low on bells & whistles. No complaints from me, get the job done without being rude is priority number one.

The oiliness was palpable.

The pizza, however, was supremely disappointing. Firstly, I don’t remember the name of my pizza (sorry kids) but it consisted of cherry tomatoes, capers, olives on the usual napoli/mozzarrella base. And it was terrible due to two unfortunate reasons. Firstly, the base was burnt. It’s normal to have a little bit of charring around the base from the oven but I draw the line when I can actually taste lots of yummy (not) carcinogenic carbon in my crust. Secondly, a ‘drizzle’ of olive oil over the pizza can add flavour… but a drizzle, people! Not a cascade! There was so much oil on this pizza that it had literally coalesced into  a pool of oiliness in the middle of the pizza, this was a lake, a pond of oil! As a result, the pizza was slimy and gross.

To be fair, Jess’ pizza, the ‘Badabing’, was a lot better. Less oily, the pork sausage used was good and the chili was just right. But my pizza was so terrible that there’s little chance of Ladro making it into the Final round. Sorry Ladro-lovers, I was tres unimpressed.

Pizza Taste: 6. Note: Much can be made of Ladro’s name, which is Italian for “thief”. A poor choice, some might say, given Ladro’s relatively high prices and, in this case, lackluster offering. Thieves indeed.

Everything Else: 7.

2. +39


+39 Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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+39 is the international dialing code for Italy and is run by Tony Nicolini (of Pizza Espresso in Doncaster fame). Check out a surprisingly decent review by Matt Preston here. +39 was named Pizzeria of the Year in The Age for 2010 and is still living with the hype. Getting a seat here is not easy and bookings a recommended. It’s also very much cheek-by-jowl as they’ve tried to cram as many covers as possible into a place that isn’t huge, unfortunately a failing of many a restaurant/cafe. This results in a very noisy environment when it’s full as people’s conversations bounce off the marble and spill out onto the street.

My dining companions for the tasting session were @jillianjtl and @cloudcontrol (aka. Billy from Half-Eaten), check out his review of the experience.

We sampled three pizzas, I opted for a special pizza (pictured above) which consisted of a spicy Italian sausage, silverbeet, chilli and scamorza (smoked mozarrella), Billy opted for the broccoli pizza with anchovies and pine nuts (also reviewed at eat and be merry, for tomorrow we die(t))  and Jill had the truffle & porcini pizza.

My selection was the best, excellent base, the smoked flavour of the scamorza came off perfectly, the sausage was great quality and its slight sweetness offset the bitterness from the silverbeet. A great all-rounder. Both other pizzas worked well too, I’m not a huge fan of truffle pizzas because I’m overwhelmed by the mushroominess, and in my opinion, the DOC version of Jill’s pizza is slightly better but it was still very good. Billy’s pizza also challenged how I view the idea of broccoli as a pizza topping. I was impressed overall.

Unfortunately, the service, while friendly, was not overly professional. We booked for 7.30 but were not seated until 7.50, they had to shuffle tables around while we were standing in a cramped passageway, and we were seated at the arse-end of the restaurant by the toilet. They also forgot our drinks order and only checked up on us half an hour later, we were lost in conversation but also thirsty! They dealt with these setbacks well, apologized (not profusely) and righted them but they must still be punished in the scores. A busy restaurant that crams these covers in needs to be able to manage the busy-ness.

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 6.

3. I Carusi


I Carusi on Urbanspoon

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I Carusi is another Melbourne stalwart, previously opened and owned by Pietro Barbagallo before even Ladro and Mr. Wolf came onto the scene. The restaurant has since changed and hands, and Barbagallo has opened his eponimous Trattoria reviewed in Heat 1. We came to see if I Carusi still lives up to its reputation.

It turns out that it kind of doesn’t. The change of atmosphere was refreshing, but there was definitely some incongruity, and not of the ironic hipster variety that one invariably finds in Brunswick East. Old Italian pizza, exclusively young and attractive waitresses; white tablecloths, disposable napkins; attempt at luxury, less-than-excellent service… odd.

My dining companion for the evening was Mae aka. @lynnegweeney. Mae opted for the Alla Moda di Mario, with a mozarrella/tomato base and pancetta, red onion & chilli. I chose the Speciale (pictured above) with the same base and soppressa, roasted peppers, artichokes and olives. First point of note is that you’ll note from the picture above, this is slightly different to the simple, uncluttered pizzas of the other “artisan” pizzerias we reviewed and is moving closer to the over-topped, over-stuffed, bang-for-your-buck variants at Pizza Hut and its cousins on Lygon Street. And the taste was somewhere in between too – not subtle at all. While I can’t find fault with anything in particular on the pizza, except that perhaps the olives and weren’t as fine as Barbagallo and the base wasn’t as delicate as DOC, the overall pizza just packed too much punch and not enough finesse for my money. I Carusi – not to my taste.

Pizza Taste: 6.5.

Everything Else: 6.5. Service was friendly enough but also run off its feet and not particularly professional. And speaking of cramming too many covers (as mentioned earlier), this time we were seated in a very narrow passageway between two rooms with waitresses rushing past us on a regular basis and a massive light from the exposed kitchen shining directly into my face. Not best positioning.

4. Supermaxi


Supermaxi on Urbanspoon

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Supermaxi – an odd name for a pizza place, and boy has the buzz been building about this one since it opened not too long ago. Much of the buzz has, of course, been due to the involvement of Rita Macali, ex-head chef of Ladro. We came to see if Macali’s new pizza haven (i mean that, not in relation to the terrible chain, of course) would prove better than the new Ladro chef’s thievery.

In discussing the name, I’ll borrow from Melbourne Gastronome:

So, the name. It turns out Supermaxi is many things: the name of a chain of Spanish supermarkets, a type of NZ racing yacht and a series of late 1980s compilation albums featuring Kool & The Gang, Yello and Wang Chung. Owners Rita Macali and Giovanni Patane toldEspresso that the name is intentionally un-Italian, a portmanteau word made up of English superlatives Italians like to use. Fair enough. But me, I can’t help thinking of products like these when I hear the name. At least it’s memorable!

Not only is the name memorable but so is the dining experience, both in total juxtaposition to Supermaxi’s super nondescript exterior (which appeals to North Fitzroy’s hipster contingent for sure).

My dining companion for this tasting session was Gem (@snarkattack) from Eat Drink Stagger. Check out her take on the experience. Gem opted for a pizza special that was little more than prosciutto and napoli base. A choice not unwise, given the tendency towards simple dishes being the best. I went for something more adventurous (pictured above),The Sicilian,  a tuna pizza with red onion and lemon. My pizza was beautiful, very well balanced, just the right amount of saltiness (dangerous ground considering the tuna) and a perfect base. Gem’s was also excellent, especially for prosciutto fans.

The place itself is really a delight, it’s spacious and feels it because Macali & Patane have not crammed diners in like sardines in the name of profit. Kudos to them. The service was almost perfect, and Patane’s friendliness front-of-house was definitely appreciated. Supermaxi is up there with the best of them.

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 9.

So the winner of Heat 2 is Supermaxi, coming out on top with a superior ‘everything else’ score to +39, but both are in strong contention to appear in the Final. But we still have Heat 3 to do which includes such pizza luminaries as Mr. Wolf, Woodstock and Pizza Espresso. Join us for the final installment soon!

Pizza Battle – Heat 1

with 14 comments

Original post announcing the battle here. I’ve been apologizing a lot lately and I’ll apologize again. Reason for the supreme belatedness of this post is a combination of tech problems and being super busy. However we’re off and here goes.

The pizzerias reviewed for Heat 1 are:

1. D.O.C. (Carlton)

2. Barbagallo (CBD)

3. Bande a Part (North Carlton)

4. Pizza Meine Liebe (Northcote)

I apologize for photo quality, the dim lighting in these pizzerias did not agree with my Canon Ixus yet again.

1. D.O.C.
295 Drummond St
Carlton, 3053
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D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar on Urbanspoon

From the team behind Carlton Espresso, D.O.C. is all about authenticity: simple pizza, quality produce and bases, few toppings. The place is also a ‘mozzarella bar’ and features Australian-produced fior di latte and Italian-made mozzarella, as well as an excellent selection of cured meats (bresaola, prosciutto, speck, etc.)

Capricciosa Nuova at Carlton's D.O.C.

We had a capricciosa nuova with tomato, mozarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive. Those that frequent the normally terrible Lygon Street pizzerias (ie. Papa Ginos, Notturno, etc.) will be familiar with the capricciosa and although the ingredients look the same, this is of a far better standard. The ham is great quality, none of that weird curly shaved mystery meat type stuff and the mozarella is their beautiful fior di latte (not the shaved one you get in a plastic bag at Coles).

While the service at D.O.C. can sometimes be Roman-style arrogant, brisk and full of swagger, on this occasion we were well served and I have no complaints. Design is nothing to write home about: clean, Mediterranean, stone everywhere. I find the place to be somewhat cramped and somewhat noisy but these are small quibbles, the pizza speaks for itself.

Bonus: Their excellent antipasti, cured meat selections, cheese platters and desserts are also worth trying but, alas, this is a pizza review.

Pizza Taste: 9.

Everything Else: 7.

2. Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria
103 Lonsdale Street,
Melbourne 3000
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Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

The self-named new restaurant of Pietro Barbagallo, he of I Carusi (Brunswick East/St. Kilda) and L’Uccelino (Yarraville) fame has started his own joint and they definitely haven’t scrimped on the details. The place is all ostentatious marble, hard wood and the like. The loudness is definitely palpable, the noise basically bounces off the walls, and there are several tables with only stools, not a set-up I’d recommend for eating pizza and paying $20+ for it.

This place has a terrible reputation for service, but if I may disclose, the waitress was a friend of mine, so we got the attention we needed and I have no complaints. However, this may not be indicative of their usual service.

The pizzas don’t have names at Barbagallo but the one we ordered featured tomato, mozzarella, olives, salami cacciatore, olives and roasted peppers and it was pretty awesome. The olives, for example, tasted amazing (for some reason). The base could use some work, the pizza overall tasted a little blander than DOC and the salami failed to live up to DOC’s ham. Having said that, it was still a fantastic pizza and I’m splitting hairs… splitting hairs is something we expect to do a lot during this battle.

I’ve heard excellent things about their pasta too, and their calzoncino (with three types of chocolate: white, milk and dark) was delish. But… we’re all about the pizza here!

Pizza Taste: 8.

Everything Else: 7.

3. Bande A Part
749 Nicholson St,
Carlton North, 3068
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Bande à Part on Urbanspoon

Bande A Part is an existential-themed pizza bar named after a Jean-Luc Godard film. As such, a number of menu items and some of the decor are to do with the them (including, for example, the Anna Karina pizza). Before building this list, I had never been to Pizza Meine Liebe (reviewed fourth in this post) and had no idea that Bande A Part was related to the famed Northcote pizza joint, but it appears that a relationship exists, given the similarity in some of the menu items and decor.

While I love existentialism and Godard, I’m not a big fan of Bande A Part. The pizzas that we had were fairly bland affairs, service was indifferent and the atmosphere of the place was cold, despite the best efforts of the decorators (which, by the way, didn’t go that great either, due to the cool 60s minimalist vibe). The biggest problem though, is the menu, which is high on concept and low on delivery and quality, the pizzas we tried were fairly lacklustre, especially when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above. The one pictured above is the Greek pizza (I forget the full name but it’s something suitably quirky) and was the better pizza that we tasted. The base was somewhat too chewy and the toppings too bland for my liking.

Pizza Rating: 5. Lacklustre when compared to the ones above but still preferred to most pizza around the city.

Everything Else: 5. Points for an interesting concept.

4. Pizza Meine Liebe
231 High St
Northcote, 3070
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Pizza Meine Liebe on Urbanspoon

As mentioned above, the Northcote stalwart, PML, is also related to Bande A Part, a connection which I had no idea existed until I finally visited PML to do this review. If I had known that the poor quality at BaP would be somewhat repeated at PML then I might have struck one of them off the list but, alas, the pizza is eaten and the reviews are written.

Pizza Meine Liebe has quite a following in Northcote, this place has been around for quite some time and is very popular with the Northern Suburbs hipster set. I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. The pizzas were decidedly better than their BaP counterparts but still nothing to really write home about. Let me be clear, the bar here is pretty high. If comparing both PML and BaP to Pizza Hut or your neighbourhood pizza joint then of course they’ll come out on top. But when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above, these funky anglo-run hipster joints just don’t stack up. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste but, hey, it’s my review!

I sampled three pizzas here this time, the Jett pictured above being the main one I had. I’m normally a fan of potato-based pizzas, especially when combined with taleggio cheese, but this was a bland affair, swathed in oil and I was sick of it around half way through.

The service and decor here was also much better executed than at Bande A Part. Our waitress was friendly, personable and attentive and the whole place seemed to fit together a lot better, eschewing warmth and comfort (albeit in a somewhat cramped fashion) while combining the elements of the decor well into a good package. Service-wise, I’m aware of the terrible reviews these guys get on urbanspoon and elsewhere but since service was great when I visited I can’t complain.

Note: PML is crazy busy so it’s advised to book for either 6pm or 8pm or take-away (Joe’s Shoe Store next door will have you with a pizza and serve you a pint to boot). Gluten-free bases and toppings are also available here.

Pizza Taste: 7. The pizza here is worth a try, in part to see what all the fuss is about and in part because it’s decent pizza but it just can’t compete with the Italians. Not for my money anyway.

Everything Else: 7.5. Not as loud as the Italians and with friendlier service, you don’t get the ‘authentic Italian atmosphere’ nor are you bathed in opulence but it’s an overall more pleasant place to visit.

So D.O.C. takes out the first heat, just pipping Barbagallo which also stands an excellent chance of making it through to the Final. Stay tuned for Heat 2!

Trotters

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Trotters
400 Lygon Street,
Carlton, 3053,
Tel: (03) 9347 5657
website (and its a very nice, elegant website, might I add)
foursquare
urbanspoon

Trotters on Urbanspoon

Trotters adds further fuel to my theory that the block of Lygon Street between Faraday and Elgin is by far the best block and possibly the only part of Lygon Street actually worth going to (though there’s also the corner with Lazzat & Il Dolce Freddo).

I have always told visitors to Melbourne that Lygon Street is our Little Italy, and yeah, sure, it is. But the inference one draws from that is that there is good pasta and pizza to be had, right? Mostly, wrong. It is actually kind of difficult to get good Italian food on Lygon Street and for the uninitiated it can be a little like playing roulette. You walk past shopfront after shopfront, some with touts offering you free wine, some with heaps of people sitting outside, but you still have a 90% chance of getting a glorified La Porchetta pasta with the cheapest possible ingredients or a glorified Pizza Hut pizza, but smaller and with less taste. And don’t even get me started on the coffee.

Forgive me if I sound bitter, but I studied at Melbourne University (just next door) for six years. Six years of the pain and suffering of wandering up and down that street looking for something decent to eat and getting bitten. But no longer! Rejoice! There is Trotters! A place you can go and be certain that for $15-20 you will get a decent pasta.

Now Trotters is not the only good restaurant on Lygon Street, I for one rather enjoy Tiamo and D.O.C. for example, but, unlike D.O.C., it’s a Carlton stalwart and enjoys the history and the well-deserved status of being an institution, while, unlike Tiamo, not being stuffed full of tourists and other suburban types. Also, its pig mascot is cute.

Though I have been to Trotters for breakfast before (and can tell you that it’s good), my most recent trips have been mostly dinner (and therefore, pasta) related. Here’s the breakdown of what I tried in a recent sitting (and apologies for the lacklustre photos, my compact held up badly in the dim light).

First up, the linguini with pork and fennel meatballs in a tomato ragu ($16.20), this dish was decent. It wasn’t subtle, but then meatball pastas rarely are. The meatballs were fresh and on point, the fennel came through really nicely. The tomato ragu was heavy, possibly a little too heavy but I’m nitpicking. If you’re looking for a pasta that’s hearty, this one’s your choice. Just don’t expect anything ‘light’.

The risotto of chicken, mushroom and braised leek ($17.50) was probably the worst dish I’ve had at Trotters. Now, I’m going to be careful here, because risotto is one of those divisive dishes that everyone seems to have a (conflicting) opinion on. I believe that the rice and the broth are both equally important to risotto, however, I do not think a risotto should be so drowned in broth that it almost becomes congee. This is what the risotto at Trotters tasted like to me. Not a fan.

Next up, the linguini tossed with prawns, tomato and broccoli, chilli and garlic oil ($18.60), to me, this dish is one of the stars. It’s by far the most elegant dish I tried all evening, the sauce was delicately light but delivered enough flavour while still allowing the seafood to work its magic.

Now, Trotters also do some great burgers, which I didn’t have that night so I won’t describe them in detail but I do recommend you try them. However, my regular dish at Trotters is the Spaghetti Putanesca, in a sauce of Western Australian anchovies, lilyput capers, kalamata olives and a hint of chilli ($15.50). Putanesca is one of my all time faves for a few reasons. The first, and simplest, is that I love all the ingredients. Anchovies, olives, capers, chilli is a recipe for delicious. The second is that it’s not normally overly saucy, which is something I prefer to heavy pasta dishes smothered in either half a litre of creme fraiche or a napoli sauce that sits in your stomach for a week.

Now I’ll be honest, the putanesca is objectively probably not as good a dish as the seafood linguini above. I mean, it’s not perfect, for starters it’s very salty and at times can be overpowering, but it’s still one of the most consistently well executed ones I’ve had in Melbourne. The saltiness is pleasant because it is of the natural variety but for those of you with sodium problems, stay away.

Oh and, by the way, their desserts are also delicious. Try the sticky date pudding. The coffee, not so much, but it’s better than Brunetti.

Alex’s Ratings:

Taste: 8/10. You can rely on Trotters for decent, well-priced pasta. Not perfect, but consistently reliable. There’s also great burgers and desserts. It all adds up to a pretty great menu (apart from that risotto, perhaps).

Authenticity: 7/10. We’re talking relatively here. It’s Italian owned and run, much like other restaurants in Lygon Street, however it has not sold its soul for money and a slice of tourist dollar. Ingredients aren’t cheap and effort is taken to stay true to Italian roots.

Value: 8/10. $15-20 for a pasta is pretty standard and this is definitely the higher quality end for that price range.

Ambience: 9/10. What I like best about how Trotters feels is the authenticity of the place. Nothing here is contrived, there’s history (since 1988, that’s over 20 years) and there’s love, and you can feel it within the tiny walls. Oh and, as I mentioned earlier, the pigs are cute.

Service: 7/10. Well, they do take their time at Trotters, which is normally ok because service is still polite, attentive and personal. But sometimes they do give the impression of being slightly understaffed, particularly when they get unexpectedly slammed (such as… on a Sunday night with a thunderstorm approaching, maybe?)

Overall: 8/10. A true Lygon Street institution that has never let me down.

Written by alexlobov

March 9, 2010 at 2:55 am