Maria, Nonna Nella and Bianca.
Vicolo Cafe & Risotto Bar, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500
Since Consider The Sauce’s first visit to Vicolo, yours truly has returned a couple of times.
That’s been to take advantage of the joint’s $15 lunch special of risotto and a glass of wine.
One time I had a zesty, lighter number with vegetables and lemon rind.
On another and by contrast, I went with a robust ragu and sausage number.
They were both brilliant.
Maria has done what she said she would – turned this long-time risotto hater into a convert!
I mention this to make the point that Vicolo is rapidly becoming part of our routine and that this time out I am not merely fronting for another snout-in-trough freebie at a place I would otherwise not frequent.
Though – let’s make no bones about it, and yes food blogging is sometimes the best gig in the world – I leap at the chance to attend the restaurant’s special 10th anniversary dinner as an extremely privileged non-paying guest.
And why wouldn’t I?
Specially when it’s not just Maria in the kitchen – in there she’s been joined by her mum, Nonna Nella, and daughter Bianca.
Three generations of Italian cooking – how wonderful!
Once again I am joined by Yvette and Anna from X2 Marketing – by now, this has gone way beyond work and I genuinely like hanging with this crew – and this time, too, by their respective partners, Michael and Rob.
I suspect there are more extra hands at hand in the kitchen, and there certainly is on the floor.
It’s a full house, the vibe is upbeat and happy, and the guests seem evenly split between Maria’s extended friends-and-family and regular customers – with us lot in the middle.
It’s busy, busy, busy, but we find the service and food arrival times to be good.
Some of our party choose to eat from the regular menu, but I will highlight here dishes from the special birthday list (see below).
We get a couple of sets of Nonna Nella’s antipasto ($22) to share.
It’s all fine in a wonderful old-school way. I specially like the rich fishiness of the sardine involtini and the zipoli (fried long doughnuts stuffed with anchovies), both bottom right.
My brodo di pollo (chicken broth with polpette and home-made pastina, $15) is my night’s highlight.
Describing this as chicken noodle soup would do it a gross injustice.
Nor does the above photograph in any way convey the depth of simple, soupy flavour or the hidden presence of masses of noodles and marble-sized meatballs.
I had goat, in casserole form, on our previous visit, so somewhat regretfully pass on the capretto in crostata (traditional cacciatore-style goat pie with verdura, $38).
But I’m glad Michael gets it and he enjoys the rich heartiness of it.
My pesce spada (swordfish bagnara on grilled potatoes with orange and fennel salad, $38) is, for fish these days, quite well done.
That’s an appropriate term, as eating this IS like eating a steak – one, though, that is juicy, tasty and in no way dry. The salad and rather smoky roast spuds are the perfect foils.
Maria says: “Bagnara was the lemon, olives, capers, parley and olive oil dressing that garnished the fish!”
Our table mostly goes without dessert, but Michael and I both plunge right on ahead with the pannetone pudding ($12).
This, of course, is a bread and butter pudding – and a fantastic one. Instead of the listed figs, our puds are topped with the most luscious berries.
For dessert, Yvette has … lasagne (in joke …).
Finally, Maria sends us – unbidden – a plate of “dolcette – Nonna Nella’s little sweet things”. They, too, are lovely … but by this time we are all uniformly sated.
This is the second in what will be a trilogy of stories about Vicolo.
The third will likely be published in a few weeks – regular readers will guess, I’m sure, where we’re headed with this … and it’s going to be brilliant!
Consider The Sauce’s meal at Vicolo was provided without payment being required. Management had no prior knowledge of what would be ordered, and neither sought nor was granted any editorial input into this story.