[invite] Bianca: Having a successful restaurant in today’s climate is hard enough. But the Pagano family have now added another heavy hitting Italian restaurant to the fold with Entrata in Glenhaven. We couldn’t stop raving about the food at Bel Fiore in Dural when we went last year. Finding good Italian restaurants for us is virtually akin to winning the lottery because no-one really does do it better than the Nonni.
On a rather dreary overcast Saturday we made the trip out to Glenhaven for a leisurely long lunch. We were warmly greeted by Isabella, who ushered us to our table overlooking the expansive back verandah and with a picturesque outlook you could almost mistake your surroundings for the rolling hills in Tuscany or maybe a little closer to home…the Hunter Valley.
The front exterior is rather deceptive, a small fronted house makes way for a large rustic and homely interior with exposed brickwork with dark wooden tones. It straddles that fine line between charming and quaint and almost fine dining. It’s definitely not your everyday ‘local Italian’ and the prices do reflect that.
With Isabella’s guidance we settled on the Menu Fisso $58 p.p. (ordinarily with a minimum of 4 people). But it was a great way for us to sample a number of dishes without making any hard decisions! One thing to be said off the bat, all of the food was gorgeously plated.
We started with some Complimentary bread evoo & balsamic vinegar. We loved the clever brown baggie serving situ but I struggled with the bread. And everyone knows I love my bread and butter!! I appreciate the house-made bread and the flavour was there. But I would have preferred a larger roll, as the texture was far too crispy and a little un-enjoyable.
The Zeppoline – fried doughballs with anchovies $11.50 are a standard affair in our grandparent’s house hold. Typically they make them with zucchini as well as a sweet version with a vanilla crème patisserie. First up, TEAM FSS come down firmly against anchovies, we don’t like them. But we enjoyed these far more than we were anticipating. Isabella proudly told us these were her Nonna’s creations. And it’s easy to see why they have ended up on the menu here at Entrata. The batter was light and fluffy, almost doughnut like with a crispy exterior. The anchovy added a bold saltiness, that wasn’t too overwhelming. We couldn’t help but think an accompanying tomato based dipping sauce would make a great addition. The light dusting of parmesan on top was really just the tip of the ice-berg.
Perhaps in our excitement for the incoming food we forget to mention our aversion to certain fish and sardines is probably high up on the avoid list. The Sardine Carpione – fried sardine fillets w/ sautéed mixed onions, bay leaves, juniper berries, pepper & white wine vinegar. Served w. house made bread $14.50. The batter on the sardines was light and unobtrusive and possibly the highest compliment I could give would be the subtle flavour of the fish. A bite encompassing every element was the perfect combination of salty, sweet and acidic.
We can never go past a good Croquette – w/mushrooms $14.50. Crispy, gooey in the middle, a nice hit of saltiness from the cheese and a muted undercurrent of mushroom. We loved the small smattering of what we assumed was arrabiata sauce and the small dish of aioli.
And the last of the entrees, the delicate Beef Carpaccio – marinated with a negroni cocktail of Martini red, gin and Campari. Served with rocket & an orange salad $24.50. This is one of the lighter starters on the menu, tender wafer thin slices of beef with a citrusy zesty flavouring. I loved the pairing with the orange segments. It really was unlike any other carpaccio I’ve had before.
We were moseying on over to carb-town now with some pasta and risotto. We were impressed by the well-developed sauces and pasta at Bel Fiore so we knew that we about to try something pretty impressive. And we weren’t disappointed.
The Risotto Di Zucca – vialone nano rice, pumpkin, basil oil & a star anise crumb $29.50. Drew instant reactions from Alex and Vanessa. Visually it’s a striking summery dish, the flavour profile light and refreshing. The rice was soft and pushed just beyond al dente, which is our preference. No-one likes a chalky risotto. It was creamy and cheesy with just a hint of pumpkin, despite its glowing orange colour. The breadcrumbs added some crunch and drizzle of basil oil tying everything together.
But I think the winning dish of the day was easily this next one. The Pappardelle Al Funghi E Speck – wild mushrooms, speck, garlic, evoo, rosemary, drizzle of truffle oil $28.50. This is really everything you could possibly want in a pasta dish. Exceptionally silky pasta, earthy caramelized mushrooms and a salty concentrated hit from the speck. The truffle oil was neither here nor there for us, truth be told we couldn’t taste it at all.
Heading to purge town, population us – stomach real estate was becoming an issue. Mains were a meat lover’s paradise. I rarely eat lamb but I was especially taken by the Agnello -24hr slow cooked lamb, smashed roasted potatoes & a pea sauce $36.50. The lamb truly was the hero on the plate, beautifully tender and practically separating at the slightest prod. The roasted potatoes were a perfect complimentary side but we were left a little puzzled by the pea puree. A bite with every element was enjoyable but the pea sauce on its own had a ‘raw’ pea taste that we just couldn’t look past. One thing we really did notice and mentioned constantly was how perfectly every dish was seasoned.
The last main was the Galleto –Spatchcock marinated in cardamom, beer, herbs, lemon, garlic & chilli. Served with roast potatoes & green beans $34.50. Exceptionally succulent with a crispy skin. A nice kick from the herbs and spices. We were surprised by the addition of the beer. This instantly reminded us of a Portuguese chicken. Again, well-seasoned potatoes and blistered green beans.
We can never go past dessert as you all know. All I need to see is chocolate and our decision is pretty simple. The Chocolate Tortino – chocolate molten pudding w/ vanilla bean gelato $13.00 was the perfect ending to an already indulgent lunch. Decadent and rich with intense dark chocolate drops. The vanilla was great to cut through the richness of the chocolate but let’s face it. This is absolutely worth the coma you’ll be in after you consume it.
And perhaps the dessert I was most looking forward to. The Entrata Tiramisu – Limoncello, passionfruit & white chocolate $13.00. So I basically saw ‘tiramisu’ and stopped reading. I assumed I was getting your standard chocolate and espresso profile so I was slightly disappointed. But the onus was on me. Despite my initial disappointment it was rather enjoyable. Light and airy mascarpone cream with fresh passionfruit. I did find it on the sweeter side, preferring the more bitter chocolate tortino. This was Ness’s favourite.
Almost 3 hours later, we left well fed and incredibly impressed by the food. I could only imagine what the Pagano’s could achieve if Entrata and Bel Fiore were within Sydney city limits. But in actual fact I think that’s part of the charm. And really, I don’t think the locals would like us sharing too many of their secret haunts especially when they’re as good as this.
Photos by Alex
*For Food’s Sake dined as guests of Entrata. All opinions remain our own and independent.