Pizza d’Asporto Yarraville – opening today!

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ysporto6

 

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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Classy Italian in Essendon

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gradi7

 

400 Gradi, 110 Keilor Road, Essendon. Phone: 9351 6690

Keilor Road has always appeared to us to hold much food promise – promise that largely goes unfulfilled.

The Mount Alexander Road end, especially, seems to be perennially drab.

So we’re happy and excited to accept an invite to dine at the swish, new 400 Gradi, an invite that came to us through a media colleague for whom it was not a good fit (see full disclosure below).

It’s entirely possible we may have gotten around to trying the Gradi Brunswick sibling.

The one at Crown?

Very probably not.

But a sexy new place in Essendon?

Oh, yes!

 

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The Essendon Gradi, on the ground floor of a newish apartment building, has high ceilings and two main dining spaces as well as stools at the bar.

Much is black and/or shiny.

 

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We find the service to be spot on, while our table in the main dining area affords us the wait-time pleasure of watching the open kitchen and its inhabitants in overdrive.

We’re in two days before Christmas and the place is VERY busy.

 

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Having watched the cured meats being sliced off in a neverending stream, that’s how we start – with 18-month prosciutto crudo di Parma Mornello ($15) with cornichons and caperberries.

It’s a delight to which some very good fresh bread is presented on the side.

We’re not paying so there are no financial factors stopping us from going for secondi such as slow-cooked capretto with lemon, paprika, white wine, tomato and olive oil ($30); or the Gradi porchetta with apple balsamic, cipollini and white cabbage ($35).

But it’s a hot day, we’re not much in the mood for meat – and we have our eyes on dessert.

So pasta it is for us.

 

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In the past year or so, Bennie has developed an interest in gnocchi.

I tell him the gnocchi di patate with 20-year-old balsamic, black garlic and sage butter ($24) he is about to eat here will likely be the best he has tasted.

And so it is, the gnocchi being delectably fluffy pillows caressed by simple, high-quality accessories.

 

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My seafood linguini with fish (salmon and white fish I’m told is snapper), prawns, clams, scallops, garlic, chilli, napoli sauce and herbs ($34) at first blush appears to be a standard offering.

But it’s a much superior outing, thanks not only to the quantity of seafood but also to its startling freshness.

Aside from needing – for my purposes – a bit more zing in the chilli department, its perfect.

 

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And so to dessert …

We have a cone apiece of the house specialty gelati – margherita.

Its sweet, sophisticated and very Italian.

But its no match for the tiramisu (top photograph).

This is a stupendous masterpiece.

All the expected flavours and textures are in place but there simply seems to be more heft and substance and all-round yumminess than has been the case with most of the other, many versions we’ve tried.

The only downside to what has been a very enjoyable experience?

During a busy, silly-season, pre-Christmas lunch session, the noise levels have been very high.

I’m told some soundproofing is on the way.

Next time, we’ll take those pizzas for a spin.

400 Gradi is open for dinner seven days a week and lunch Thursdays to Sundays.

(Consider The Sauce dined at 400 Gradi as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. 400 Gradi management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

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Meal of the week No.21: Tre Bicchieri

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tre7

 

A sizable chunk of my working life was spent working on a metropolitan Sunday newspaper.

That meant 12-hour slogs on Saturdays and perpetual irregular weekends of Sundays and Mondays.

So my current working regime – hard yakka with Star Weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays, two days “off”, Fridays back at Keilor Park, then the weekend – seems like a miracle.

Perfect!

 

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Not, mind you, that I am idle on those mid-week days.

Far from it – I get out and about, usually cramming so much living and blogging and food stuff into two days that it always seems a surprise when I return to my regular gig.

It can be a bit disconcerting but I do love it all.

This week’s Wednesday, for example, involved a morning blog post followed by a journey to Camberwell to meet and talk with a cafe owner disgruntled and dismayed by approaches being made to him by Zomato (and by the nature of those approaches), followed by a haul to Royal Melbourne Hospital for a blood test and then a visit to Williamstown for more food business.

 

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Post-Camberwell and pre-test, I pull into Rathdowne Street looking for somewhere to have a quick lunch.

Upon stepping in Tre Bicchieri (623 Rathdowne Street), I grin with delight as the memories flood in.

This was a frequent lunch spot for me when a regular part of another weekly routine involved a weekly radio show on PBS.

Gosh, it’s a sweet place.

The staff are happy and fully into their work.

Even better, it manages to be oh-so-classy yet at the same time relaxed, welcoming and absolutely non-hipster.

I wish it was in the west.

The general vibe – and much of the produce stocked on the shelves – seems to be Italian.

But the menu (see below) is broader than that.

 

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From the specials board, I choose corn fritters with spinach, avocado, poached egg and zaatar ($18.50).

As with most such constructions, it eats bigger than it suggests upon visual appraisal.

It’s all top quality, though I’m not persuaded that the zaatar – denoting, in this case, the Middle Eastern seasoning mix of  sesame seeds, oregano and more, rather than pita bread baked with the mix on top – is a good match for the salmon.

But the smoked fish does go beaut with the wilted spinach underneath the extremely corny fritters.

I’m eager to be back on the road and taking care of business so don’t linger over a coffee.

But the cafe latte roadie I depart with is perfect.

 

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Ovest revisited

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ovest35

 

Ovest, 572 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7766

It’s been a while since Consider The Sauce’s inaugural visit to Ovest so I’m very happy to be taking Bennie for his first visit for Sunday lunch.

The place has quickly established itself as a popular fixture for West Footscray and beyond.

But as it has done so, Ovest has been evolving and growing.

 

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For starters, and no doubt to the grateful hurrahs of many, the boss has “caved in” – according the place’s Facebook page – and now has a “shiny new Wega machine”.

Espresso coffee at Ovest – oh yes!

As well, while Ovest has been open on Sundays for a while, starting this coming week it will be open as well for lunch from Tuesdays through Saturdays, with those days offering a streamlined menu of nine-inch pizzas and a few other goodies (see menu below).

For our Sunday lunch, Bennie and I have no problem with choosing from the regular menu, going pizzas all the way.

 

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The spicy pork on a tomato base with fennel sausage, ham, baby tomatoes, fior di latte, wonderfully crisp pancetta and chillies ($22.50) and …

 

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… the napolitana with olives, fat anchovies, baby tomatoes, mozzarella and basil ($19.50) are brilliant.

Really, these two are – in our experience – as good as pizzas can be.

My cafe latte is pretty good, too!

 

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Classic Italian, well worth a drive

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Customs House Restaurant & Bar, 57-59 Brougham Street, Geelong. Phone: 5246 6500

Dinner in Geelong?

Sure, why not!

Truth is, since departing the Geelong Advertiser, Consider The Sauce has been in that city just once – on the way to and from a nice winery lunch.

Since then that city has been pretty much out of sight and out of mind.

Oddly enough, places that were whizzed by countless commuting times – such as Werribee – have since become the locations of numerous CTS visitations.

But Geelong?

No.

 

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But … as it happens, one of our cherished and now regular dining companions and her other half have Geelong ties, and are only too happy to make up a table when an invitation arrives from Customs House (see full disclosure below).

And – again, as it happens – both my friends happen to be in Geelong on the day/night in question.

So I make the journey happily alone, eschewing the temptation of firing up the chopper and departing plenty early instead by car.

The traffic is heavy but flowing steadily, and I enjoy a nice drive fuelled by Haiatian rhythms.

I arrive with about an hour to spare before dinner time, which allows me to indulge in casual stroll around the CBD and waterfront.

There’s some sad-looking boarded-up shops on the main drag but elsewhere – on Malop Street and the waterfront – there’s been some attractive and cool eats additions so I bide my time menu grazing.

NOW it’s dinner time.

 

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The first surprises, for me, are both the location and the building itself – for some reason I had in my mind’s eye that Customs House was another historic building, one closer to the train station.

This actual Customs House is almost on the waterfront and very striking at night with it expanse of lawn leading down to the bay.

Inside, the low ceiling lends the place a clubbish feel and whole feels very nice and welcoming.

For all the swishness of the surroundings, the vibe is casual and friendly.

Another surprise is the menu (see below).

For some inexplicable reason all three of us had been expecting bistro or “modern Australian” – what we find is classic, straight-up Italian.

And the just fine by us as we’re all partial to just that!

Everything we have is good or better – even, in the cases of one of our mains and a couple of the desserts, ranging into outstanding territory.

It all compares very favourably with the fare of any of the several western suburbs Italian places we like.

 

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Fresh asparagus spears wrapped and grilled in proscuitto, served with a lemon mascarpone ($16) finds us each tucking into a lovely bundle, with the pig salty and chewy and the mascarpone a delicious touch.

 

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Arancini della nonna are rice balls stuffed with talleggio, crumbed, fried and served with a napoli sauce ($16). They’re fine, with green peas providing extra texture.

 

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Focaccia with roasted garlic oil and rosemary salt ($8) is agreeably on the dry side, crumbly and enjoyable. We mop up the last of the rice ball napoli sauce with it, as well.

 

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House gnocchi with parmesan cream, pork and fennel sausage and mushrooms ($34) appears to be almost overly rich but is enjoyed by its recipient.

 

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My zuppa de pesce ($42) boasts a broth that is rich, deep and flavoursome with seafood stock.

The seafood is good, though the mussels are tiny and the whole is weighted heavily towards baby octopus – no matter, I scoff the lot with glee.

 

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The simple, rustic pollo alla cacciatora ($38) is big hit, its hefty chook chunk tender, juicy and oh-so-fine despite the depth of the meat.

I try it, thanks to my companion.

I wish it was mine.

Now it’s on to desserts – we’re excited as the three featured are faves all round.

 

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Chocolate panna cotta with hazelnut praline ($16) is fine and enjoyable but the least of our three sweeties.

It’s with the …

 

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… traditonal tiramisu ($15) and the …

 

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… the white chocolate creme brulee with blueberries ($16.50) that our lovely evening ends with giddy highs that have us sighing with pleasure.

This is Italian dessert making of a very high order!

With that it’s back up the road for me, a familiar drive to the strains of Benin Afro-funk made all the easier and even enjoyable thanks to a fine meal enjoyed with good friends.

Check out the Customs House website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Customs House as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. Customs House management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

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Moto a-go-go

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moto1

 

Motorino, 29A Vernon Street, South Kingsville. Phone: 9399 2121

Motorino has been around for years but we’ve never until now been through its doors.

Not sure why.

Certainly, it’s been in the mix many, many times as we’ve pondered our options – but we’ve chosen to go elsewhere.

A recent, indolent incident of home delivery pizzas quickened our interest – our couple of simple, vegetarian pizzas were simply the best to-our-door food we’ve ever invested in.

On time, hot, delicious.

So here we are, trying our luck without a booking on a Friday night.

No problem – we snag a table for two and take in our surroundings.

Having peered through the windows so often, it seems I’ve bred the impression that Motorino is somehow a sleek, trendy sort of place.

 

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So I am bemused to discover that from an insider’s point of view that it’s not like that at all – it’s just like any popular Italian eatery in Melbourne.

It could be in Carlton or Brunswick.

Gee, that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise – and that’s not my intention.

Mororino IS kinda cool and classy and the cooking aromas are intoxicating.

But it’s all a hubbub on this Friday night, with family groups galore and kids everywhere.

The staff are obliging, smiling and efficient.

We settle in for a slightly longer duration than planned but enjoy the hell out of our Motorino stay.

And why wouldn’t we when we have a pizza, a pasta, a dessert pizza and two hot drinks and pay a most admirable $56?

 

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Pizza funghi ($17.50) with caramelised onions, ricotta, olive oil and mozzarella is good though we find it a little austere and plain.

We unambiguously cast envying eyes at the specials-board marinated lamb number being consumed at a neighbouring table.

 

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Fusilli Tuscan of Tuscan sausage, caramelised onions, garlic, tomato sugo and parmesan ($19.50) we think is utterly brilliant.

I make a version of this at home but no way have I ever attained the sort of succulent, tasty, sticky and rich heights this plate does.

Wonderful!

 

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Having such a swell time are we that ordering a dessert pizza is a no-brainer.

Bennie’s outside talking on his phone – so I make the call: Raspberry and lemon curd pizza with double cream ($12).

As you’d expect, it’s on the tartish side – but that’s fine by us.

It lasts, maybe, about three minutes and is sluiced down by a just-right cafe latte ($3.50) and hot chocolate ($$3.50).

During the course of the evening, we’ve seen very many delivery drivers come and go.

I’m told that a typical Friday night will see about 80 deliveries made involving about eight or nine drivers.

Man, that’s some serious pizza moving business.

As we recently discovered for ourselves, there’s very delicious reasons for that.

But based on tonight’s meal, we reckon we should make the effort for an in-house visit much more often.

Cold night, fried dough

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moz21

 

Mozzarella Bar, 103 Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9687 0097

Some time before the end of year, Bennie will become taller than his dad.

His shoe size is already a step up from mine, so to speak.

This is all a far cry from his first appearance in Consider The Sauce – a late 2010 review of Laksa King in Flemington.

It’s to Bennie’s considerable credit that in that time he has continued to thrive in two separate homes with two very different adults/parents.

I was never going to be a movie-and-Maccas-once-a-month kind of dad.

No way!

Which isn’t to say I don’t mostly enjoy the bachelorhood our arrangement affords me.

Though things can get a little scary.

So the Bennie times are to be preferred, bringing a centredness and a sense of belonging.

On his first night back with dad, I generally make sure we have a meal at home – just to settle in once more and knuckle down for the work/school week ahead.

So this week, Sunday night dinner is yummy pies from a new Werribee bakery, tomato salad and yogurt/cucumber/garlic dip.

What we can do on such nights, however, is go for a post-dinner promenade around the nighbourhood.

Bennie sometimes may take a little persuading to leave the house, but once we’re out and about he truly digs walking the streets with his old man.

And happily, and despite their much-discussed trendy veneer, Yarraville and Seddon offer very, very little by way of food and drink temptations on a cold Sunday night – they’re pretty much locked-down and shut-up like small country towns.

This reduces us mostly to bat-spotting and talking to cats – no problem!

But Mozzarella Bar is changing all that.

As we enter, Bennie has his mind fixated on Nutella calzone.

Of course!

But a quick glance at the menu reminds me of the eye-catching Italian doughnuts I spied on my first visit here.

Oh boy, these are good!

Our zeppole are hot, chewy, crunchy with cinnamon sugar and spiked with plump sultanas. They’re served with a just-right bowl of cream infused with vanilla and coffee.

A $11 serve of five is fine to share for two lads who have already consumed a healthy dinner.

Our cafe latte and hot chocolate arrive, as requested, within seconds of our dessert – a touch of class and timing we appreciate.

As we depart, I ask Bennie which he thinks the superior concept – zeppole or Nutella calzone.

“Maybe if they deep-fried the calzone!” he quips.

Now, THERE’S an idea …

Check out Temasek’s review here.