Bianca: Leichhardt’s Norton Street isn’t the Italian stalwart it once was, the abandoned store fronts aren’t doing much to sell the suburb that was virtually my second home growing up. My Nonna lives a street back from Norton Street and many a nights were spent making the short trek to Bar Italia after dinner for some gelato.
The introduction of parking meters and councils general greediness virtually killed many restaurants along the strip but one shining beacon that has seemingly stood the test of time is ‘Aperitivo’. A strikingly modern Italian restaurant that bustles even on week nights which I was kind of shocked by. It’s not your typical suburban Italian restaurant and really, there isn’t much like it in Leichhardt. A trendy front entrance doubles as a bar/casual area to kick back with drinks and a few anti-pasti. Head towards the back of the restaurant and they have an outdoor area that would be great in the warmer months.
I made two visits in the space of a month and for me to do that, especially with an Italian restaurant means they are doing something very very good. The food is more on the pricier side and the portions aren’t your typical mum and pop operation.
From the ‘Small plates’ section of the menu and over two separate visits I made a decent dent in the entrée list. First up is the ‘Gratin di funghi e gorgonzola’ – mixed mushroom & gorgonzola gratin with quail egg yolk $12. No longer on the menu (which in itself needs a re-think), the mushrooms were plump and juicy and smothered liberally with the gorgonzola cheese, typically not one of my favourites as it is overwhelming. It just worked so well, the yolk once broken and stirred through the mushie-gorg mix created a tantalising creamy explosion. It was a little odd eating on its own however, a slice of crusty pane di casa would have fixed that right up.
The ‘Mozzarella e ‘Nduja in Carrozza’ – deep fried mozzarella & nduja (salami) wrapped in battered bread $12. Was a fantastic take on essentially a grilled cheese toastie but a billion times better! Nduja, a spreadable Italian spicy pork sausage provided some heat and the mozzarella was in abundance, I had it a week later at Chiosco by Ormeggio and it was far superior at Aperitivo.
The ‘Capesante, Burrata e Piselli’ – Seared Scallops served with burrata cheese, peas & tomato dust $15. Definitely the one that hurt most shelling money over for. The scallops were cooked expertly and were gorgeously plump and fleshy. Slightly sweet and creamy, they were paired well with the burrata, a combination I was a little sceptical of initially. But in regards to value for money, I can’t say I was too happy with this dish for the price. But then again, I rarely order seafood so perhaps it’s my naiveté.
The last of the entrées were the ‘Zucchini flowers’ –filled with fresh ricotta & smoked provola $16. The light tempura batter was executed flawlessly, oiliness can be a factor if done incorrectly but these were wonderful. The filling sounds rather rich but offset by the subtleness of the zucchini flower it was a marriage made in heaven. The smoked provolone cheese was at the forefront but no complaints about that here.
Also no longer on the menu (and highly moot talking about really) is the ‘Beef Fillet’ – served with pumpkin puree, sautéed mushrooms & Barolo wine reduction $30. A faultlessly executed medium rare fillet of beef with a potent and thick jus and paired well with the puree. This just sung ‘winter warmer’.
The ‘Risotto Special’ $27, which I for the life of me cannot remember what it was. Sounded much better in print than it did in the flesh. There was radicchio in it, that much I remember. Only because after each bite I was left with a predominately bitter metallic aftertaste. This was very disappointing and I was sad to have wasted both my stomach space and calories on it.
I couldn’t very well go to an ‘APVN’ Neapolitan certified pizzeria and not get the carb-a-licious treat could I? The classic ‘Capricciosa’ – Ham, mozzarella, mushroom, tomato, artichokes and olives $21 was quickly devoured and it’s easy to see why pizzaiolo Francesco Spataro is so revered in the pizza making community. Crispy, fluffly and bubbly edges border in to a slightly ‘soupy’ centre, the tell-tale sign of a classic Neapolitan pizza.
Mid-week meal or date night I really don’t think you can set much of a foot wrong at Aperitivo. Glad to see some life in the Norton Street dining scene.