Pasta and broccoli


This has long been a mid-week standby for us.

Of course, it’s a close relative of pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino, so the same rules apply.

As with wok cooking, everything needs to be chopped, diced and prepared before the real action starts.

And timing is everything.

I suspect we have more broccoli than you’d the ratio you’d find in an authentic Italian version. But I figure it’s a good way of getting kids – such as Bennie and myself – to eat more vegetables.

This particular batch was turbocharged – a new bottle of anchovies, four of them instead of three, heaps of garlic and chilli.

It tasted bloody amazing!

I know that various, regular CTS visitors will have their own versions of this recipe, so I’m looking forward to hearing about all the different variations.

This recipe is for two people – adjust quantities for more.

Because of the anchovies, there’s no seasoning need other than that listed below.

And of course when it comes to making your home smell grouse, this can’t be beat!


1 head of broccoli

1 packet short pasta

virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

3-4 anchovies

chilli flakes

parsley (optional)


1. Get a big pot of water going on the stove.

2. While it’s coming to the boil, chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

3. The chop the garlic finely and add to the required amount of chilli flakes (fresh red chilli can be used).

4. Finely chop the anchovies and add to the garlic/chilli mix.

5. Add pasta to boiling water.

6. Put a heap of olive oil in pan and warm it up with very low heat.

7. When pasta is about 3-4 minutes from being done, throw in the broccoli, mix with pasta and turn up heat until water is boiling again.

8. Just after adding the broccoli to the pasta, turn olive oil pan up to medium high and throw in the garlic/anchovy/chilli mix.

9. Stir frequently so anchovies breaks up and all flavours integrate.

10. Drain pasta/broccoli, add to pan and turn heat to very low.

11. Mix pasta/broccoli with pasta really well. I don’t mind a bit of sizzle here, with the pasta and seasonings getting a bit crispiness going on.

12. Add parsley and mix in well.

13. Serve in bowls and drizzle each bowl with a little more virgin olive oil.

14. Inhale.

Pier 35 Bar & Grill


Pier 35 Bar & Grill, 263-329 Lorimer St, Port Melbourne. Phone: 9646 0606

It’s a bleak, bitterly cold Melbourne winter’s day, so undoubtedly there are better times for visiting Pier 35 Bar & Grill.

But as it turns out, for a school holiday treat that is affordable and tasty, our visit could hardly be bettered.

For starters, the place is nice and warm!

And it’s classy, with very good service, in a way that we don’t come across too often in our trawling of the western suburbs.

Even better, a big ship cruises past just as our meals arrive.

The waterfront vistas are unremittingly grim and industrial, but even that strikes us as a change of scenery worth savouring.

Pier 35’s menu gravitates towards Italian food and steaks, with an assortment of other influences.

Main courses generally hover between the mid-$20s and mid-$30s and up to the mixed grill for $48.

We, of course, hone right in on the lunch menu, which has a longish list of meals for $14 and is available seven days a week.

The line-up includes fish and chips, calamari salad with red capsicum pesto, and grilled lamb skewers with cabbage salad, pita bread and tzatziki.

The BLT is described as “classic” yet comes with chicken – which strikes me as something of a contradiction.

I’m unsurprised Bennie orders it anyway – it’s a winner, too.

The chips – there’s just enough of them – are crunchy and good.

The chicken looks like it should have that nifty charcoal flavour. Not so, says he, who describes it as “just chicken”.

The bacon, though, is of high quality, there’s lots of it and it’s well cooked.

Good, thick bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato – I put it to Bennie that this is probably the best BLT he’s ever had.

He doesn’t disagree.

Ordering seafood pasta from a $14 menu may seem like pure folly, so I’m very happy to announce that my seafood spaghetti “with market fresh seafood, garlic, white wine and basil” is fantastic.

As you’d expect, there’s only a modest amount of seafood – a couple of fat prawns, two smallish mussels, some salmon, a chunk of calamari, some other fish of a broken-up and indeterminate nature.

But it is indeed very fresh, as well as beautifully cooked and delicious.

But the best part is the pasta itself – it’s immersed in a sauce that is decadently, almost obscenely, oily; there’s garlic overkill that is nevertheless just right; fresh tomato bits add texture; and, best of all, all is imbued with a delightful wine flavour.

No basil to speak of, but I’m a long way from complaining – I love my lunch.

Pier 35 presents as a really cool option for western suburbanites looking for a change from injera, pho or curries.

And, based on our lovely budget meals, could be that the more formal side of the restaurant is worth a look, too.

Check out the full Pier 35 menu here.

Pier 35 Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Alchemy with tinned tomatoes


Our basic tomato sauce

We can tell you exactly how much of this stuff we have eaten over the years.

It is precisely the mid-point between lots and lots on the one hand and, on the other, heaps and heaps.

Seriously, we really have tucked away plenty, though that has been less so in recent months as our blender broke and has yet to be replaced.

However, a few weeks back – when we were having a dinner that included a rare, for us, commercial bolognese sauce – I opined that it was actually pretty good.

“Not as good as yours,” Bennie said.

“What, you mean my tomato sauce?” asked I.

“Yeah,” said Bennie.

Dead chuffed I was, but it also was a signal that it was time to fire up, blender or not.

Truth is, just chopping or otherwise smashing the tomatoes is fine.

We prefer our tomato sauce to be a sort of blank canvas, so we keep seasoning to a minimum.

So no garlic, no basil or other herbs, no meat.

We add all those and more – bacon, chorizo, polish sausage, Italian sausage meat, tuna, depending – when we unfreeze and use the individual portions.

As well as with pasta, this goes good with roast chook, fish, snags & mash and so on.

Makes the house smell sweet, too!

The vegetable quantities are negotiable, though if you use too many you’ll get a vegie stew rather than a sauce.





6-8 cans whole or chopped good-quality tomatoes

Olive oil

Bay leaf

Salt (about a teaspoon)




1. Without being too fastidious about it, chop the carrot, onion and celery as finely as you can.

2. Cook vegetables over medium-high heat with plenty of olive oil.

3. As the vegetables cook, whizz or otherwise smash the tomatoes.

4. When the vegetables are well cooked and wilted, add tomatoes, keeping the heat the same.

5. As the sauce comes to the boil, add salt, sugar, bay leaf and pepper.

6. Cook for several hours at the lowest possible simmer – at least until the oil rises to the top.

7. Eat, freeze, enjoy.

It’s really cool how the tinned tomatoes and vegetables you have at the start become something entirely different after a couple of hours.

Pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino


Of the many varied ways we use pasta in our home, this is perhaps our favourite.

It’s a spicy, salty, oily flavour explosion.

It’s also quite tricky – the timing is everything.

As with wok cooking, everything – garlic, anchovies, parsley – needs to be ready and chopped well before the pasta is cooked.

And don’t even think about making the “sauce” – if that’s what it is – until the pasta is about 95 per cent done.

I was surprised to find, on checking our various Itralian cookbooks, that none them included the anchovies.

Oh well – we do!

And all those recipes use less parsley than us.

What can I say? We love the green stuff!

I can’t imaging using short pasta with this – though we do when making the closely related version using broccoli.

Because this pasta concoction is not one that holds its heat well at all, we use the pasta water to pre-heat the bowls.

Everyone will have their own comfort levels when it comes to the chilli, garlic and anchovies.

Almost as good as the taste is the way cooking this pongs up the house!


Extra virgin olive oil



Chilli flakes


Long pasta


1. Get the water going in a really big pot.

2. Finely chop garlic and anchovies; leave on chopping board alongside your required level of chilli flakes.

3. On a separate board, chop the parsley.

4. When the pasta is about half way done, gently warm a generous amount of the oil in a pan on a very low heat.

5. When pasta is all but done, turn pan heat up to a low medium.

6. Throw in the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies.

7. Stir frequently to break up the anchovies. The garlic should get only a light tan so some care and attention is required.

8. Drain pasta, using the water to pre-heat bowls.

9. Turn pan heat to very low and toss drained pasta into the pan, swirling it around so all the good stuff is sticking to it.

10. Throw in the parsley and swirl similarly.

11. Serve in pre-heated bowls and top with another dollop of extra virgin olive oil if desired or needed.

12. Eat.

13. Lick lips and smile.

Meeting Mr Bongiovanni


Anthony’s grandfather and grandmother flank his then-toddler father in their North Melbourne butcher shop.

There have been many surprises attending the opening of long-awaited food emporium A.Bongiovanni & Son in Seddon – its size, scope, range and pricing just for starters.

What has not been so surprising are the varying levels of negativity that have arisen.

These seem to range from fears for smaller local businesses posed what is seen by some as a predatory carnivore to outright hostility towards what is perceived as an attack on community wellbeing by a moneybags outsider.

Doubtless that will continue to be the case and healthy debate will continue for a long time to come.

But spending time with the man behind the shop and its arrival, Anthony Bongiovanni, it’s impossible to deny the passion he has for Seddon.

He’s a businessman for sure – and a self-confessed ambitious one at that.

But he’s one who I am inclined to take at face value when he makes a determined assertion that he wants to see Seddon bloom.

As he points out, he has been a prominent community member for almost a decade and president of the Seddon Traders Association for the past four.

“I want a better Seddon,” he says. “I have a passion for Seddon. I’m not out to take people’s business away.

“I made a deliberate decision not to stock non-food household good so we wouldn’t be directly competing with the supermarket around the corner.

“With this sort of place, I couldn’t not stock bread – but considering the size of the place, we haven’t gone overboard. We certainly don’t want to hurt Sourdough Kitchen.

“We want to provide more options. I’ve never seen so many people on the street.

Anthony points out the wooden pannelling above the fruit and vegetable section. It took him and his father-in-law three weeks to install using wood from old fruit boxes of the type just visible bottom right.

Anthony himself is another surprise.

Where I’d had a mental picture of a suave Italian patriarch, I instead meet an enthusiastic young man in his early ’30s.

But he’s packed a lot of living and work experience into those three decades.

He has a long background in the liquor and building industries.

On his mother’s side of the family, there’s a history of fruiterers; on his father’s side is a line of butchers.

His grandfather’s butcher shop in North Melbourne was named C.Bongiovanni & Sons.

Anthony has continued that tradition by including “& Son” in the official name of his new enterprise after his own two-year-old son, Samuel.

At one stage, he ran a joint called Bongiovanni’s Food & Wine Bar in North Fitzroy, but it was too small to make it profitable.

Anthony is happy to see its failure as an outright positive.

“I lost just about everything, but it was the best thing that could have happened,” he says.

Anthony leased the building that these days houses Thirsty Camel – it was Betts Electrical then – in the mid-’90s, eventually buying both that building and the one next door, which housed a furniture store.

He resisted interest from the furniture folk in renewing and extending their lease, and entertained leasing proposals that involved the likes of a gym or yoga centre.

But they didn’t work for him.

“I wanted something that would boost Seddon,” he says.

I suspect the genesis of A.Bongiovanni & Son was long dormant but profoundly present in Anthony’s soul.

But things only really started moving when he was perusing Ebay one night and saw a bunch of good-quality shop fittings for sale. He rang the woman involved the next day, eventually doing a great deal the got him not just shop fittings but a forklift as well.

Then followed more purchases of fittings from Ebay and all of a sudden the plan was up and running.

There were major hiccups along the way, mostly notably with the securing of a strong, reliable electricity source.

Turns out the existing power infrastructure was woefully inadequate to service such a shop, and wasn’t all that flash at doing so for other existing businesses either.

The eventual cost was well above $200,000, with Anthony contributing about a third.

Anthony’s grandfather on the left.

Then followed the long and challenging job of securing products and distributors for them.

“I travelled interstate, I went to food fairs and farms,” Anthony says.

The shop carries more than 20,000 products and deals with more than a 1000 suppliers.

The likes of Raw Materials handle a range of products and producers, but many of the items that line the shelves of A.Bongiovanni & Son come from single-product makers so the work simply has to be done.

While the business does carry some cheaper items – incredibly cheap in some cases – Anthony is unapologetic about mostly following a top-notch philosophy that mirrors his own approach to food.

“Whether it be chips or sausages, I’m happy to pay a dollar more or eat a little less to get that high quality,” he says.

As we wrap up our conversation, we spend some time marvelling over photographs Anthony has of yesteryear scenes of Footscray such as the Western Oval, long-gone tram routes and shops.

Then he lends me a copy of Per L’Australia – The Story Of Italian Migration by Julia Church, a mind-blowing photo history upon which I plan to feast.

He tells me there’s further big plans afoot for A.Bongiovanni & Son, but only smiles when I press him for details.

Cooking classes?


Live music?

“There’s more,” he says with a smile.

And finally, he dismisses the moneybags suggestions.

“Everything here … I started from scratch.”

Heading back to my car, I stop by Sourdough Kitchen to inquire about how they feel about the new business just up the road, but they’re too busy to talk.

See earlier post here.

A.Bongiovanni & Son


See profile of Anthony Bongiovanni here.

A.Bongiovanni & Son, 176-178 Victoria St, Seddon. Phone: 9689 8669

Our first visit to the flash new Seddon food emporium is in the early evening of opening day.

We only need a few things and are not intent on doing a serious shop, but are intrigued to have a good look around.

First impressions:

Having long been familiar with the furniture store that preceded it, we find it a little smaller than we expect.

But factoring in storage and refrigeration requirements, it all adds up.

The word we’d heard that this was going to be like a smaller version of La Manna at Essendon Airport has only partly eventuated.

On the one hand, this business is not going to put the supermarket around the corner out of business for the simple reason that – unlike La Manna – there is no loo paper or laundry powder or paper towels or … you get the picture.

Nope, here it’s strictly food and drink all the way.

On the other hand, like La Manna everything except the fruit and vegetables is packaged and packed and packaged again.

There’s a lot of plastic going on here.

There’s also a strong Italian factor, but they cover a lot of other bases, too.

At first blush, and with some notable exceptions mentioned below, this seems a pricey place.

Pricey, but top line just about all the way.

Whether it be ice cream, chocolate, pasta, antipasti, juices, ready-made curries or biscotti and much, much more, overwhelmingly most of the stock effortlessly falls into the “deluxe” category.

Finally, there is an undeniable “wow” factor.

Given the nature of the prices and the lines carried, it seems unlikely A.Bongiovanni & Son will be a staple of ordinary household shopping for us or just about anyone else.

But I reckon there’s little doubt it’ll become a regular stop when we want just the right kind of quality ingredients or just the right kind of treat we so often deserve.

Now that’s some really cheap pasta and tinned toms – although they have deluxe versions of both, especially the pasta.

The oil line-up looks pretty solid, although we didn’t stop long enough to get into specifics.

They have their own line of frozen stuffed pasta at a really good $3.49 – ravioli, tortellini and gnocchi.

It being the kind of night on which dad has nothing planned for dinner and we’re tired and uninspired, we grab a bag of the ravioli and a tub of Element bolognese sauce.

The beef ravioli we have a little later on are the best store-bought filled pasta I’ve ever had – no kidding!

Really, really tender with a nice nutmeg-infused flavour.

We’ll be having them again for sure, and trying the other two formats as well.

When it comes to the nuts and lollies, I think it’ll be a case of “prefer others” for us.

We’re really keen on hearing what other folks think of this long-awaited establishment!

Ms Baklover has got a more detailed post up at Footscray Food Blog.

She’s right to be in a celebratory mood – in our rush on a long and tiring week day, we didn’t even stop to marvel that such a place has opened up right in our neighbourhood!



It’s winter for sure.

The freezer is more or less empty.

It’s time for a great big pot of goodness called minestrone.

Bennie’s not a fan, but I sure am.

Oddly, this Italian soup’s ingredients overlap with a variety of other dishes we make at home, but it is quite different from them all.

Minestrone is minestrone and they’re not.

I’m sometimes tempted to order minestrone when out and about.

But mine is better.

If there’s one Italian dish I do that could be called authentic, this is it.

Anyone who makes this soup knows that it’s better allowed to cool and then reheated. It’s even better the next day.

And, somewhat surprisingly, it does freeze well. Just leave out the pasta and be gentle in the reheating and it’s fine.

Many recipes tell cooks to use stock. Go ahead. I don’t bother with it these days – unless there’s some already at hand. Certainly, don’t buy stock. Water is fine!

Flicking through the various Italian cookbooks I use, pondering which minestrone recipe to follow, I finally say to myself: “This is ridiculous – I know how to cook this!”

So I do!


Olive oil

1 large onion

1 large carrot

2 celery sticks, leaves and all

flat-leaf parsley for cooking

2 courgettes (I have decided to use this term from here on in, because I can never remember how to spell zuch … whatever …)

1 good handful of green beans

1/2 small savoy cabbage

2 medium spuds

1/2 can cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dry beans soaked overnight.

1 can tinned tomatoes

1 stubby dried-up heel of grana padano or parmesan



1 small handful of short pasta or broken up bits of long pasta

Parsley for serving

Extra virgin olive oil for serving

Padano/parmesan cheese for serving

Good bread for serving


1. Chop onion, carrot, celery and parsley – not too big, not too small. Throw in pot with plenty of olive oil and cook on medium heat until wilted.

2. Add spuds, courgettes, green beans – chopped likewise.

3. Add beans and chopped up tin tomatoes and their juices. These beans had been soaked overnight but not cooked before being added to the soup. They cook fine and tender in the time it takes for the whole soup to come together.

4. Add cheese heel.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Add enough water/stock to cover by about an inch.

7. Cover and cook on a slow simmer for about an hour or an hour and a half.

8. Turn heat off and let soup cool for several hours if you have them available.

9. Reheat gently.

10. Add pasta 10 minutes or so before serving.

11. When pasta is cooked, ladle into bowls.

12. Garnish with more chopped parsley, drizzle with virgin olive oil and grate cheese over all if using.

13. Serve with some great bread on the side, grilled/toasted if you prefer.

N-Joy Gourmet Foods Salami & Goats Cheese Pizza


Seen those vacuum-packed pizzas that seem to have become all the rage of supermarket stockists in the past year or so?

There seems to be several suppliers providing them to all our regular supermarket haunts.

They certainly look nice with their sort-of fresh ingredients on display – they look much better, in fact, than your normal supermarket pizzas from the freezer, which we’d never consider buying.

We’ve tried a number of them by now.

Some have been OK.


Some – most – have been awful.

Even when the toppings have passed muster, the problem has been getting the pies crispy – despite following the cooking instructions scrupulously.



More like flaccid, limp, soggy.

This is our first road test of a N-Joy Gourmet Foods pizza.

As well as the advertised cheese and meat there’s olives and artichoke bits. Well actually, they’re more like artichoke shavings.

Get the oven real hot and into it goes our pizza.

After fives minutes or so the verdict is … hmmmm, certainly smells the business.

When it’s just about done, a big bubble has, um, bubbled up in the centre of the pie.

Out of the oven it comes to be sliced.

The spicy salami rather heavily dominates.

The goats cheese tastes good but it’s a bit overwhelmed and there’s only so much of it.

The olives and artichoke shavings are relegated to decoration status.

Happily, though, it has form and structure – it’s something approaching crispiness and a slice can be held in one hand rather than two.

This is the best of its ilk we’ve tried … so far.

Meanwhile, it’s fair to say that those pizza purists who start from scratch AND those more pragmatic folk who use store-bought bases or even pita bread really do have a point.

Country style beans


This is a straight rendition – with a few tweaks, noted below – of the foundation bean recipe found in Michelle Sicolone’s fabulous book, 1,000 Italian Recipes.

It’s also something of a departure for me.

I am so used to finely dicing aromatic vegetables and making them an integral part of my pot dishes that leaving them unchopped, using them for, um, aromatic purposes and then discarding them feels a little weird.

But I’m prepared to give it a shot.

Truth is, despite cooking a variety of pulse dishes drawing on South Louisiana, Indian and Italian traditions, I often find the textures, look and flavours do end up with a certain degree of same-iness because of the way I habitually use the vegetables.

This will be something different.

And if the beans end up as creamy and smooth as advertised, they may be a hit with Bennie.


500g cannellini beans

1 carrot, trimmed

1 celery rib with leaves

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 tbsp olive oil



1. Soaks beans overnight

2 Drain beans, place in pot and cover by at least an inch with water.

3. Bring to boil.

4. Reduce heat to low and skim off foam.

5. Add vegetables and olive.

6. Cover pot and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, adding more water of needed, until beans are very tender and creamy.

7. Add salt.

8. Discard vegetables.

This is a batch of beans that is started before noon yet not destined for eating until our evening meal, so there is no rush and I can let things unfold naturally and observe with interest.

It seems to take a while for any great degree of assimilation to start taking place, but when it kicks in, it is comprehensive. What seems for a long time to be too watery by far ends up being just right.

When it comes time to discard the vegetables, I simply can’t go whole hog.

I finely dice the carrot and back in it goes, joining the obliterated celery leaves in providing some colour.

These are, indeed, by far the smoothest, creamiest beans I have EVER cooked – I only wish I could do so well with black eyed peas and, especially, red beans ‘n’ rice.

They are very plain, though, to the point of austerity – and that’s with the salt and a couple of non-recipe-mandated shakes of freshly ground black pepper.

As such, they’d be sensational as a side dish to, say, sausages or pork chops.

The second bean recipe in 1,000 Italian Recipes is Tuscan beans, in which the garlic is used but the other vegetables are replaced with rosemary or sage.

I like the idea of combining both recipes.

We have these beans with toasted Zeally Bay sourdough casalinga rubbed with garlic and brushed with virgin olive oil.

Casa Italica: Out with the old, in with the new …

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Despite being fond of Casa Italica, it’s not been a frequent haunt for us – much like the rest of Williamstown.

I am surprised, then, when in the neighbourhood to discover the place has been gutted and a major building operation is underway.

However, the two young builder blokes I talk to assure me Casa Italica will still be present when the works are completed.

There’s apartments being built – and a carpark to service them.

And the Casa Italica space looks like it’ll be a whole lot more roomy and expansive.

This is pretty exciting, as the previous configuration was a little on the pokey side, and was perhaps even hampering the sort of service and products and eats they were of a mind to offer … in a neighbourhood in which such expansion will surely be a winner.

Casa Italica

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88 Ferguson St, Williamstown. Phone:  9397 5777

We stumbled upon Casa Italica while looking for a post-lunch coffee after a visit to Wild Rice, also in Ferguson St.

I’d returned once seeking soup, only to find none available.

This morning, while going about my business, I have been developing a lust for minestrone.

I’m in luck – there’s two soups on, and one of them is the one that has been on my mind.

The vegetables are chopped much more finely than I am familiar with in this soup, either made at home or out and about. But they’re all present and accounted for, cooked through but far from mushy.

My soup bowl requires a little at-table seasoning and I use all the little bowl of grated parmesan provided as my meal progresses. But together with two excellent slices of crusty buttered bread, it gets better with every mouthful until all is gone.

It’s deceptively filling and worth every cent of the $10.95 I pay for it.

Casa Italica is a temple to all things Italian situated in a lovely old building. Stacked and shelved in every nook and cranny are condiments of all sorts, tomatoes every which way and a pasta selection that appears to rival that of Mediterranean Wholesalers in Sydney Rd.

At first blush I take many of the meals listed on the blackboard menu to be little more than lightweight cafe fare.

But the plates I see around me – which include arancini and fab-looking pies – appear very fine indeed, the salad quotient looking hearty and handsome, and containing greenery and beans at the very least.

No soup for me next time.

I linger over a good coffee ($3) and a deliciously moist piece of pistachio biscotti ($2.50).

As I am taking photographs of the exterior, one of the establishment’s coffee customers, on noticing my Grateful Dead hoodie, ventures out for a bit of chat about the local music and food scenes.

Larry tells me Casa Italica is one of his regular caffeine haunts, but he seems to share our bewilderment about the food scene hereabouts.

Ferguson St, Nelson Parade, Douglas Parade – so many cafes and eateries, so few highlights.

“Nelson Parade is like the Gold Coast,” Larry quips. “We mostly go to Footscray to eat.”