Grand Italian

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Ciao Mamma, 3-5 Union Street, Brunswick. Phone: 8528 7091

CTS still gets the occasional non-plussed online comment about our random coverage of non-western suburbs eateries.

You know, as if we should stay forever and only in our self-appointed place!

But, no, we ramble, too.

And as regular readers will know, when we ramble it is often to Brunswick and Coburg we head.

This has not gone unnoticed by Tina and Nic Persano of Ciao Mamma.

So much so – and liking the CTS style and stories a lot – they invite us over for a feed (see full disclosure below).

This is a grand thing, as given the restaurant’s location just off Sydney Road, we are unlikely to have discovered it on our own.

It takes several weeks for Nic and I to arrange a suitable night, and for me to rope in some eating partners.

While all that is going on, I have a good look at the photos and comments on the Ciao Mamma FB page and scope out the menu and more at the joint’s website.

In doing so I become as certain as can be we are in for a super swell time.

And, yes, that’s how our evening goes.

The dining areas here surround the central kitchen, with the vibe in general being chic, comfortable, welcoming and cheerful.

There’s a pride and determination to provide great Italian food here.

Yet there is no veal, seafood, steaks and the like.

Ciao Mamma is mostly a pasta place.

The fervent aim of Nica and Tina is to make guests feel like they’ve had an old-school family meal, nonna-style.

We reckon they do just that.

We start with focaccia ($9).

Fresh out of the oven and so good it could be a meal all on its own.

The salumi and friends offering ($24) is the best of its kind I’ve ever enjoyed.

It’s not that there’s so much of it or so many different ingredients – it’s just that it’s all so wonderful, tasty and beautifully matched.

Prosciutto from Parma and hot salami from Mondo soro in Western Australia – both thinly sliced, fresh and yum.

Roasted red capsicum.

Superb cheeses from Azzuri in Bolinda – pecorino cheese in thin wedges; and burratina, shredded fresh mozzarella and cream encased in fresh mozzarella served with Maldon salt flakes, cracked pepper and virgin olive oil.

Olives – Sicilian green olives and Ligurian small black, both baked in-house with garlic, chilli and herbs.

Then it’s pasta time!

The drill here is that guests choose their variety of fresh house-made pasta and match it with a sauce, with extra customising options available.

This photo of Josh’s rigatoni with ragu ($24) is something of a lie, as there’s a heap of meaty slow-cooked beef in there and it’s an excellent selection.

Eliza’s spaghetti with amatriciana ($20) is just as sexy, with heaps of pancetta.

My own tagliatelle with the ortolana sauce of tomato and roast vegetables ($19) is good, though I find it a bit in the realms of plain and worthy – and rather end up envying my friends’ choices.

Desserts?

Oh, yes – this particular configuration of Team CTS was always going to explore the sweet options with gusto!

Pana cotta ($10), topped with a Ciao swirl of salted caramel, is unlike any we’ve before tried.

Less of the wobble and more of the buttery firmness – but still excellent.

By contrast, the “Tina-mi-su” ($12) is a light and fluffy fantasia with just a delectable whiff of booze.

Finally comes the choc-blast that is flourless torta caprese with chocolate and almond ($12).

Decadent and rich, it’s good thing this – and the other desserts – are shared between three of us.

Ciao Mamma was recently announced as the first Italian eatery to obtain Coeliac Australia accreditation for its gluten-free options.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Ciao Mamma as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered from the menu. Ciao mamma management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

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