Pizza d’Asporto Yarraville – opening today!

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Pizza d’Asporto Yarraville, 2-6 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 6807

The first day of public trading is on the Thursday, but in the meantime the newly assembled team at Pizza d’Asporto Yarraville is under the pump on the Wednesday night.

 

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There could not be a better trial run for all of them than the opening celebration currently in full swing.

 

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A happy crowd of family and friends have gathered for the event.

 

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The old post office premises has been fitted-out beautifully.

 

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I have a negroni and couple of Pieronis; Bennie is hammering the Chinotto.

 

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It may be a new experience in a new kitchen for these guys, but the Pizza d’Asporto quality is there all the way.

 

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This pizza finally pushes Bennie beyond tipping point in terms of zucchini fandom.

 

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Yet even this simple number of just cheese, chilli, olive oil and salt is amazeballs.

 

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But the biggest flavour hit, for us, comes from this perfect-in-every-way traditional pasta pesto with beans and potato.

OMG so good!

 

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We have a ball; meet some interesting people; just generally enjoy hanging out.

 

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What a joy it is that we have a Pizza d’Asporto right in our very own neighbourhood.

 

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Mind you, we’ll doubtless still hit the Williamstown mothership on occasion – just because, you know, we dig it.

 

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Congratulations to Claude, Antoinetta, Anthony and their team.

 

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Pasta with ricotta and asparagus

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Consider The Sauce is relatively familiar with reading and eating pasta recipes involving fresh ricotta.

But in them, the ricotta has always been used in a tomato-based sauce.

I have never seen an Italian recipe using ricotta like this.

But I would in no way be surprised to find there are Italian recipes that are the same or similar – it just seems so very Italian!

This has become a weekly staple for Bennie and I.

We sometimes use green beans, in which case we throw them in with the boiling pasta a few minutes before it is done.

But we prefer asparagus – and with asparagus, timing is everything.

The aim is quickly flash fry the asparagus so it gets a nice charred flavour before it wilts.

It’s a fine line and takes just a few minutes – so best to complete cooking the pasta before throwing the asparagus in the pan.

Depending on what’s at hand, we also sometimes throw in a few chilli slices or parsley.

But in this dish, the seasoning are simple so need to be freely used – very freshly cracked pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil.

INGREDIENTS

Short pasta

Fresh ricotta

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Finely grated lemon rind or lemon juice to taste.

METHOD

1. Cook pasta, drain.

2. Heat a good dollop of EVOO to high heat, flash fry aspargus so it retians its structure but has started to colour.

3. Turn heat to very low and throw in the pasta, separating any pieces that have stuck together.

4. Add salt and heaps of black pepper.

5. Roughly chop the ricotta and add to pan, mashing to fine crumbs with wooden spoon.

6. Add lemon rind or juice and another splash of EVOO, mix.

7. Serve.

 

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Cup Day lunch

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Heart Attack and Vine, 329 Lygon Street, Carlton. Phone: 9005 8624

Cup Day and no work?

In some ways a mixed blessing, but an opportunity for fun nonetheless.

So off we tootle to Carlton for some book work.

Within minutes of arriving at Alice’s Bookshop on Rathdowne Street we have scored big time – a first taste of Elmore Leonard for Bennie, the hefty bio of J Edgar Hoover I had been on the very verge of ordering much more expensively just a few days previous.

Then it’s off to Lygon Street to survey the lunch options.

Down one side and up the other, I opine to Bennie that in terms of mediocrity, a Lygon wander is quite similar to doing likewise Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

But there are good places – Heart Attack and Vine is one such, it’s specialty a range of simple Italian-style sandwiches (see menu below).

The staff are in the midst of the breakfast/lunch switch as we arrive, so it takes a little while to get our lunch – but when it arrives we are happy.

 

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The day’s special involves a minted pork snag, onion jam and lightly pickled cucumber, all on a fine, fresh roll.

At $15, it’s fine – but we find the sausage a bit dull.

We are so used to old-school Italian pork sausages of much more radical texture and flavour!

 

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The porchetta number ($15) is significantly better.

There’s a heap of flavour from the finely chopped pork, largely due to the fat and some crackling.

The meat is handily abetted by a zingy salsa verde.

We are a bit bemused by the mustard and “sweet spicy sambal” on the side as they seem largely superfluous.

 

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A shared side of coleslaw appears at first blush as if it may be a tad tired and dry, but that proves not to be the case.

It’s fine and crunchy, though quite heavy on the capers.

 

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Wonderful impromptu Italian

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pier719

 

Pier 71 Bar e Cucina, 71 Pier Street, Altona. Phone: 9398 8598

Bennie and I have an engagement in Altona – the launch party for a new place.

In truth, we’re not sure how – or if – this will work for us.

It’s a week night with school and work the next day, and it remains to be seen whether CTS will get enough of a look-see at the food to generate a story.

We get through the security cordon, stride up the stairs and find that, nope, this isn’t for us – it’s all about people standing around drinking, Bennie’s in his school uniform and we just don’t feel comfortable.

This place will have to wait for another day.

So around the corner we go, still chasing a dinner feed, to throw our lot in with Pier 71 Bar e Cucina.

This turns out to be an ace move on our part, as this very cool Italian has until now escaped our notice, even though it’s been around for a couple of years.

It’s all about casual Italian – something along the lines of Ovest in West Footscray or Mascalzone in Williamstown: Big on pizzas, pasta and salads, not so gung-ho about steaks and pricey seafood.

 

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The place is roughly split into three areas – a communal table at front, what amounts to a long hallway of both booth and table seating adjacent the kitchen/serving areas, and a flexible alfresco area out back.

We eat very well and find the service and timing fine for a busy mid-week night.

 

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Pizza Napoletana ($17.90) is as good as we could hope for – simple, very fine and expertly done.

There’s stacks of anchovies – good for me, not so good for Bennie!

 

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The chips that accompany our “hamburger (Italian style)” ($18.90) are superb – hot, crisp, plentiful.

The fried discs of chorizo atop seem something of an affectation to us, though, and our first conclusion is that we’d be happier if that effort had been put into putting more heft into our burger, which seems rather smallish for the price.

Bennie makes rude comparisons with the burgers we get elsewhere, but after eating I conclude he’s being unfair – because, as is so often the case, this eats bigger than it looks.

 

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And it is indeed in the “Italian style” – the meat is much more finely minced than is the case with burgers generally, be they old-school Aussie or the American style.

It’s a delight with its capsicum, onion, mozzarella and sauce.

We go for it in terms of indulgence by sharing the tiramisu ($10.90, top photograph).

It’s a dreamy, rich fantasy – much stiffer in terms of consistency than we’re used to, the booze-tinged cream a thing of grinning decadence.

Check out the Pier 71 Bar e Cucina website, including menu, here.

 

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Lovely Italian, great fun

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Impasto Forno Antico, 157 Military Road, Avondale Heights. Phone: 9331 1111

The long-awaited – by us anyway – spuntini bar and gelateria extension of Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights is up and running and we have a ball getting acquainted.

It’s all done out in sleek greys and wood; very Italian and cheerful.

And, as is only to be expected, things are a little chaotic for this Saturday lunchtime.

 

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In these ways – general vibe, style, food, people – it reminds us a bit of places such as Brunetti’s; except this is more personable.

The menu (see below) is split into sections – antipasto, paninoteca, soups, insalati and semi-freddo.

 

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We by-pass the good-looking panini – even though, as a pal points out, the bread and rolls here are a main event all by themselves.

And when I see a fellow punter at our communal table getting into the beef brodo, I somewhat regret not going the soup route.

But we end up being very happy with our selections …

 

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For Bennie, polpette al sugo – a good number of lovely meatballs in a rich tomato sauce.

 

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For me, a simple vegetable fritatta – lovely and light and just what I desire.

Both our meals are served with salad – a tomato/cucumber number for him, a fennel/orange for him, and we order a side of roasted spuds just because … they look like the could do with some more colour but taste like a dream.

 

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Because of the combos we’ve ordered, I am not sure of the specific pricing of our lunch – suffice to say, it’s all very affordable.

This is not flash restaurant Italian food – it’s just simple fare done well.

We could, mind you, live without the old-school squirts of reduced balsamic that adorn all our plates.

 

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Gelati?

In winter?

Of course!

Our small tubs (top photo, $4.50) of prickly pear for him and pistachio for me are superb, capping off a cool lunch at what is sure to become a regular haunt for us.

 

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On the way out, we grab some of that fine bread and a pizza for that night’s dinner from the extended shop next door.

 

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Fine sweeties, wholesale prices

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med2

 

Mediterranean Wholesalers, 482 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Phone: 9380 4777

After we moved to the western suburbs, we maintained regular visits to Mediterranean Wholesalers – that repository of just about everything Italian on Sydney Road – for several years.

Maybe it was because there was then less available in the west of what we were seeking – oil, great cheese and sausages, pasta, pulses and much more.

And maybe, too, it was simply a matter of not then, yet knowing where to source such goodies in the west.

That pleasurable habit fell by the wayside many years ago now … but very recently Bennie and I had some to kill before a hospital visit and it gave us a great deal of pleasure to re-visit Mediterranean Wholesalers.

We had lunched elsewhere – at our new fave non-westie joint – so were thinking only of coffee and some sweet treats.

It was a great fun to be in the place again – all appeared to be the same: The smells, the stock, the aisles of wonderful.

 

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Smiles aglow, we had a slice of lovely flourless chocolate cake ($3) and a baby ricotta canoli ($1.50).

My very good cafe latte clocked in at $2.50 and Bennie’s San Pelligrino chinotto cost a fabulously cheap $1.50.

If only all cafes sold San Pelligrino soft drinks at such prices we’d be regular chuggers.

Incredibly, our brief and enjoyable visit cost us less than $10.

 

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Nelson Place, top stuff

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Mascalzone Pizzeria Osteria Artigiana, 217-219 Nelson Plavce, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7269

Mascalzone has been open about three weeks, replacing one of the nondescript venues for which Nelson Place is mostly known, that one replacing another before it.

Mascalzone is sure step in a good direction.

It’s done out brightly with an accent on Italian in decor, ambience and food.

There’s a big brick oven at the rear and a display cabinet of fine-looking antipasto goodies at the front.

We find the service for Saturday lunch is terrific and our food is brought to us in a timely fashion.

Mascalzone’s menu (see below) is a smartly tight line-up of modern-classic Italiana that extends from starters through pizzas, pasta and salads to dolci.

 

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When checking out such joints as this for the first time, we routinely choose one of the basic pizzas just to see how they shape up.

In this case that means the napoletana ($18) picked from a list of nine red pizzas and five of the white kind.

Our pizza is very nice with simplicity being the thing and the toppings all of good quality and in the right proportions.

The crusts are have a wonderful charred thing going on.

 

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From the list of five pastas, we select the pappardelle al ragu di agnello with roasted asparagus ($22).

At first, the lamb shoulder sauce and the white pasta present as so pale as to be pallid.

But there’s do doubting the home-style depth of flavours in the meat, the attendant juices and the excellent cheese gratings.

All this rests upon and about truly wonderful house-made pasta that is al dente perfection.

 

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Tiramisu ($10) is a dream of cream and not much else – but we love it anyway.

Next time we’ll be up for sharing one of the two antipasti platters.

And there will be a next time.

Nelson Place, food destination.

 

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