Bianca: There’s something special about the upper levels of the QVB and Strand Arcade in Sydney’s CBD. Guaranteed you walk through the main thoroughfare of both these buildings and steal less than a seconds glance skywards. But there is a myriad of treasures to be found. I had a SFF screening of UNA booked in and thought I’d treat the mother to a night out and a movie. 5 pm on a Friday night and we were the first to be seated.
Staff were perfunctory but a little slow on the uptake, particularly as we were in a bit of a rush. We started with the Misto di Olive -Sicilian green olives, black olive puree, Pendolino olive oil & house made pane di casa $10.70. There’s a lot to like here, the tapenade, in particular, was rich and full flavoured, I wasn’t a fan of the olives, just lacking the punch and meatiness of a good green olive. The bread was tasty but in the spirit of all things NOT Italian, lacked the generosity of a good Italian spread. I like my bread and butter/oil but this was far too small a portion for the tapenade and oil.
Instantly catching my eyes were the Alto Adige Style Bread Dumplings – spinach, Gruyere, grana padano and burnt sage butter $19.60. Alto Adige, refers to a region in Italy bordering Switzerland and Austria. Known for their hearty peasant-style dishes. And here, the perfect example, some fairly basic ingredients turned to quite possibly our favourite dish on the night.
Pasta was the main draw card, mum opting for the Capellini – Angel hair pasta, braised free range chicken & rosemary sauce $22.70 (entree). Tasty but lacking that wow factor, the rosemary was at the forefront. This probably wouldn’t be my first choice.
When Alex realised I had made a booking at La Rosa he immediately told me to order this dish. As fate would have it, he found himself in the city and ended up coming along. So I got the best of many worlds – he had the Canneloni – w/butternut pumpkin, mustard fruit & ricotta (main) $37. Filled with a sweet pumpkin and ricotta filling and accented by a burnt butter and sage sauce.
But my eyes were for the Lasagne al fondo e finferli – pork & veal w/ truffled chanterelle fondo bruno (main) $39.75. A punchy well-developed tomato sugo, the bechamel lingering in the background. The best bit of any lasagne is the crispy top, it’s always what I go straight for. How did it stack up to the Nonni’s? Good but I don’t think anything quite compares your grandparents fresh out of the oven lasagne al forno. One thing to commend, was the flavour and texture of the pasta throughout all 3 dishes.
The menus seem to have changed in the last two weeks since our visit and these are no longer available. Our standout was the Millefoglie Di Cioccolato – Chocolate & hazelnut with vanilla cream & burnt pear $15.60. Shattering the biscuit and scooping every element onto the spoon, we were rewarded with a crispy nutty biscuit, a thick vanilla & chocolate cream, the chocolate smear adorning the plate was bitter and rich and the pear, tying it all together.
I have a big weakness for Ricotta cheesecakes and the Torta di Ricotta – Neapolitan vanilla & pineapple torte $14.90 was an interesting one. A cross between a regular ricotta cheesecake and a pastiera. Without the wheat berries (grain). The flavour was familiar but I’d be lying if I said the texture and flavour of the pine nuts weren’t a little off-putting. And some crunch, the sugar shard.
The food was tasty, traditional and familiar Italian flavours. I could bring my Nonno & Nonna here and they would love it. I’d have to get them into the city first that is.