Ripper pasta place

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Pentolina, 2/377 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9606 0642

The place, the space, the back story, the food and the company …

Consider The Sauce’s supremely enjoyable visit to Pentolina evokes many memories.

For starters, so to speak, I recall imbibing a bowl of pasta at the same address many years ago – about 20, I think.

That, too, was a specialist pasta house.

These days, under the guidance of husband-and-wife team Matt and Julia Picone, old-school pasta is still very much the go, though the place certainly looks very different.

 

 

It’s classy and stylish, without being overbearingly so.

Matt was a barista at Pellegrini’s for the best part of two decades, and it is that sort spirit and vibe they are trying to foster at Pentolina.

And succeeding.

Justin is my CTS companion for this adventure.

We figure out rough timelines that strongly suggest that not only had we both enjoyed several – and maybe many – coffees made by Matt, but that we were also quite possibly sitting side by side while doing so on occasion.

Are we happy to be here as guests?

Yes.

(Full disclosure below.)

 

 

Taking up pews at the window bench – good for watching the passing parade outside and for the taking of photographs – we are happy, too, to leave our leisurely lunch in the hands of the staff in the form of the $60 a head “feed me” menu.

 

 

We start with cured swordfish, fennel, grapefruit and pomegranate ($21) and …

 

 

… beef carpaccio with truffle cream and parmesan ($19).

There’s little for me to say about these – except that they are wonderful, simple, fresh and prepared with superb ingredients.

And they’re just the sort of thing we feel like.

 

 

We discover that we both have  something of an aversion to the oft-leaden arancini.

So we love these smaller cousins – Alessandra’s suppli (rice croquettes) with saffron and grana padano ($9).

They’re light and fluffy and beautifully fried.

 

 

Then it’s on to the pasta – all house-made.

Squid ink spaghetti with vongole ($28) is lovely, though the simple sauce of white wine and garlic (I think) is quite dry.

 

 

Matt’s spaghetti bolognese (ragu with beef, eggplant, zucchini, vermouth, $21) is good, too, though I think – nostalgic for the lusty gusto of the Pelligrini’s version – we both find it muted in both texture and flavour.

 

 

In that regard, the simple, righteous rigatoni amatriciana ($23) of pancetta, napoli, fresh chili and olives is a dead-set bullseye – and the pasta hit of the day.

The pasta, however, is just a tad too al dente for my tastes.

But let’s not quibble – this is ace.

 

 

Cannoli with ricotta, citrus and raisin ($3 each) are light and champions of their kind, with quite an unusual flavour and very crusty casings.

 

 

Justin confesses to not being much of a fan of panna cotta.

But even he is impressed by the Pentolina version with fresh berries ($13).

I love it to bits – so delicious.

I’ll use Justin’s pithy message to me later in the day as a summation: “Ripper lunch and ripper company!”

To which I’ll add: “Ripper place!”

(Consider The Sauce dined at Pentolina as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We enjoyed a range of dishes chosen by the staff as part of the $60pp “Feed Me” deal. Pentolina management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

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.)

One word – cannoli

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Cannoli Bar, 23 Riviera Road, Avondale Heights.

Down an otherwise unremarkable Avondale Heights residential street a wonderful surprise awaits.

A once-was-a-corner shop has been turned into a chic, cheerful – and already very popular – cafe of the Italian variety.

 

 

Savoury offerings appear to be down to these good-looking pizza slices.

 

 

There are a plethora of sweet treats on hand – all, we are informed, baked and/or assembled on the premises.

But the place’s focus is a bit more singular than even that – as its name attests.

 

 

Yes, cannoli – fresh-filled after being ordered.

We try two at $4.50 each – one each of nutella and pistacchio.

I reckon they are beyond awesome.

Though Bennie is less impressed.

The fillings are creamy and a way less solid than, for instance, the cannoli offered at T. Cavallaro & Sons in Footscray.

I love the whole experience – including the fact that they are fragile and more or less explode upon being handled.

Who cares?

Goes with the territory!

Our cafe lattes are every bit as good, with just the right amount of bitterness.

Canoli Bar is open Wednesday to Friday 8am-3pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am-4pm.

 

 

Fine pizza @ Edgewater

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Terminal 45 Woodfire Pizzeria, 41-45 Edgewater Boulevard, Maribyrnong. Phone: 9317 0123

The western suburbs are quite well endowed with classy pizza places.

One that appears to have flown under the pizza pie radar is Terminal 45 Woodfire Pizzeria, which is located down the hill from the Edgewater shops and pretty much right next door to St Burgs.

Last time Bennie and I spied this joint, it was a sunny summer Sunday early evening and it was packed and firing.

This time – urged on by a successful home pizza delivery and a friend’s hearty recommendation – we are back early in the week on a cold night and the scene is quite different.

We are the only customers, though deliveries continue apace.

Terminal 45 lists almost a couple of dozen pizzas, with what seems less on the menu by way of pasta and starters than most such places.

No matter – we are here for pizza.

And they’re excellent.

Caprese ($16) is like a salad on a pizza base, and thus an instant hit with my salad-loving son.

It’s simple, tasty and rather magnificent – just uncooked mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil, olive oil.

Piccante $16) has hot salami, roasted red capsicum, mozzarella and fresh chilli.

It, too, hits our pizza spots right nicely.

And not only do our pizzas please us, we note happily that the prices are a good dollar or two less than we regularly pay elsewhere.

A classy joy in WeFo

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Harley & Rose, 572 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 8320 0325

The Harley & Rose dining room has a cosy, almost clubbish, vibe about it.

The tables are many, but there’s no sense of overcrowding.

A long bar runs down most of one side of the room.

The place is all a-bustle earlyish on a Friday night, but about half those bar stools remain untaken.

Though the outside tables are chockers.

 

 

Despite the happening vibe and happy restaurant theatre in full cry, one of our fears – based on many experiences in similar places – stays wonderfully mute: The noise levels are fine.

Even though there’s a happy hubbub going on all around us, we are able to converse pretty much normally.

Though you wouldn’t want to be in whisper mode.

 

 

Most excellently, the place appears to have already earned places in the hearts of many, including West Footscray’s young family demographic.

And, yes, there is a kids menu.

 

 

Tables are adorned with real-deal serviettes.

The Team CTS of four on hand can rise to the occasion of three-hour-plus meals.

But mostly we’re very much of the “bring us food and make it snappy” school.

So we really appreciate the terrific service and the beautifully paced arrival of our various choices.

By no means are we in any way rushed, but our dishes arrive in a steady stream.

It could be said that Harley & Rose serves mostly orthodox Italian – but that would be misleading.

For instead of bolognese or veal scaloppine or minestrone, there are wonderful surprises at almost every turn.

 

 

We share four starters.

Salami ($12), with caper berries on the side, has just the right perfume level of fennel.

Our other choices mostly display exactly the same levels of light and right.

 

 

They include Noix de Jambon with fresh fig ($15) …

 

 

… and smoked ocean trout, Grand Marnier and horseradish ($16).

 

 

Though the crunchy/gooey gorgonzola dolce croquettes with quince ketchup ($9) certainly up the richness factor quite a bit.

For mains, for us, two pasta offerings and two pizzas.

 

 

Spaghetti cacio e pepe ($19) is profoundly simple, sinfully rich perfection – just pasta, cheese, pepper and not much else.

 

 

From the short specials line-up, Bennie chooses rigatoni with a sticky tomato sauce including fermented chilli and pancetta ($18).

Loves it, he does, though its consumption concludes with a familiar refrain from him: “Wow – that was bigger than it looked!”

 

 

If anything, perhaps our sooper dooper pizzas are the real high points of our eating evening.

Neapolitan ($20) with sweet pepper, tomato, anchovy, olives and oregano and …

 

 

… and house sausage ($22) with pork sausage, fennel, tomato, eggplant and pecorino both exhibit great flavours coming from perfectly matched ingredients.

 

 

Desserts?

Oh, yes, we’re definitely in that sort of mood.

Tiramisu ($14) is a straight-up top-shelf rendition of a classic.

 

 

Meringue with pink pepper melon and apple granita ($12) is amazing.

The blending of the poached meringue (a bit like a gooey marshmallow) with the cool pink cubes, crunchy granita and the all-important mint equals a taste explosion.

We’ve ordered, eaten and spent without restraint.

Our four-way meal, with a full round of drinks, clocks in at $207.

But give the starters a miss, and stick with the terrific pasta/pizza options, and Harley & Rose invitingly presents as both a night-out deal and as a regular, weekly destination.

And if I lived around here, I’d be eyeing that bar up for the odd, quick, solo meal-with-book-in-hand.

Check out the Harley & Rose website – including menu – here.

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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