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.)

CTS Feast No.11: The Wrap

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Photograph: MARKETA SILHAR

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CTS Feast No.11: Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033. Sunday, February 15.

Pizza d’Asporto serves simple, wonderfully delicious and fresh Italian food.

It does so in a casual setting with loads of warmth, friendliness and charm.

All those attributes were in abundant evidence when Consider The Sauce and a dozen or so hungry friends descended on Williamstown for the 11th CTS Feast.

 

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There was glorious antipasto, so good I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking this was the best you’d find in Melbourne, anywhere at any price.

 

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There were salads such as the insalata di rucola with rocket, pear, parmesan and rustic bread crumbs still just-right crunchy after being imbued with olive oil.

There were two pasta dishes – a fabulous pork-laden ragu and orecchiette with pork sausage and broccolini.

There were family-picked backyard tomatoes.

 

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And there were pizzas – lots of fabulous pizzas.

 

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This was a small gathering by comparison with some of the CTS Feasts of 2014.

All those in attendance had been to one or more previous celebrations – or arrived with someone who had!

 

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The exceptions were my very good pals, fellow blogger Caron and her hubby Gordon – so a big thanks to them for driving all the way from Berwick.

 

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“D’Asporto” means takeaway in Italian, and that indicates just what the original aim of this establishment was – to provide affordable, excellent Italian food for locals.

Then a bench and stools were added for the waiting comfort of customers, then more benches and more stools – and now there are even outdoor tables, at which most Feast attndees got down to their gleeful eating business.

So, you see, in some ways Pizza d’Asporto is not meant to be operating as a bona fide “restaurant” at all – but we’d not change a thing about what Claudio and Antoinetta have going here.

 

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With this story, the more formal, professional aspect of the CTS relationship with Pizza d’Asporto comes to an end – and now we’re very much looking forward to being just another couple of hungry, happy customers dropping in on friends.

Check out the Pizza d’Asporto website here.

Sweet treats courtesy of Pizza d’Asporto’s “sister” business, Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights!

 

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CTS Feast No.11: Pizza d’Asporto

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THIS EVENT IS NOW BOOKED OUT.

Consider The Sauce Feast No.11:
Pizza d’Asporto,
Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033
Date: Sunday, February 15.
Time: Noon-2pm.
Food: Buffet-style offering of pizzas, pasta, salads and starters as chosen by Pizza d’Asporto.
Guests to pay for soft drinks separately.
12 places available

Pizza d’Asporto in Williamstown has become a firm CTS favourite in a very short time.

We love the food and the relaxed, happy vibe – and the people who create both.

So we’re thrilled and delighted that Claudio, Antoinetta and their crew will be co-hosting the first CTS Feast of 2015.

As is likely to be the case with most of this year’s Feasts, there are only a small numbers of places available.

In this case, the ticket monies will be split 50/50 between CTS and Pizza d’Asporto.

Since our initial story on Pizza d’Asporto, here’s what we’ve enjoyed on subsequent visits.

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Penne with quail and porcini ragu ($17).

What a brilliant contrast to the usual grilled or roasted quail!

Stunningly delicious this was.

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Pizza patate with mozzarella, potato, taleggio, caramelised leek and rosemary ($14).

So nice to have cubed spud chunks instead of slices.

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Parmigiana di melanzane with layers of eggplant, mozzarella, potato and Napoli sauce ($12).

Typically done as a bigger dish in a lasagne style, Caludio makes this much wetter – almost like a stew.

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Calzone Nutella with strawberries ($10).

Bennie’s choice, of course.

Fab pizza, great prices, unexpected location

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Pizza d’Asporto, Rifle Range Shopping Centre, 71 Kororoit Creek Road. Phone: 9397 2033

Consider The Sauce likes – and sometimes even loves – those authentic Italian-style pizzas as much as anyone.

But the prices have always been a sticking point for us.

We know some of our reasoning in this regard doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

For instance, the places that sell such pizzas tend to be located in areas where rents are high.

As well, quality ingredients and preparation come at a price.

And we know, too, that comparing such pizzas with much cheaper but much, much less pleasing Aussie-style pizzas is unfair.

No matter how many low-quality toppings get piled onto a pizza base, the resultant product will always be … low-quality, no matter the price.

And any comparison to our beloved Lebanese pizzas and pies and their ultra-low prices is perhaps even more unfair.

The places that sell them tend to be in low-rent locations, and while the quality is often high I’m happy to accept that to a large degree it’s a matter of apples and oranges.

 

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But still, $20 or $25 or more for a pizza just doesn’t seem good value for money.

I guess what I’ve been looking for is a joint that sells authentic Italian-style pizzas in a more customer-friendly price range.

Well, I’ve found just such a one.

What’s more, it’s in the western suburbs, the place is amazing and the food the CTS party of three enjoys leaves us gobsmacked and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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It’s telling that Pizza d’Asporto is situated in a rather anonymous shopping centre quite some distance from the nearest foodie precinct.

It’s surrounded by a handful of fast-food outlets and is doing a roaring trade at about 8pm on the midweek night we visit.

There’s Italian music playing, there’s a happy vibe in abundance and the staff are smiling and on the ball.

There are no internal tables – just a bunch of stools and benches.

We grab one of the small tables outside.

The menu is split between red and white pizzas.

The least expensive is $13, the most expensive $19.

There are a handful of pastas available, all costing about $15, and a like number of salads.

 

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This broccolini pizza – with its buffalo mozzarella, pecorino, broccolini and white truffle oil – costs $14.

Can you believe it?

It’s insanely good, the flavours melding wonderfully and the green vegetable being superbly al dente but still cooked through.

 

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The San Giorgio – with its San Marzano tomato, sopressa salami, artichoke hearts, roast peppers and olives – is a couple of bucks dearer at $16 and just about as good.

My friends are more familiar with this kind of pizzas than I.

They rate their Pizza d’Asporto pies as significantly better than those they’ve had in West Footscray and Seddon, and “as good as if not better” than those they’ve loved at Motorino in Kingsville.

And keep in mind – those prices!

 

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A few days before our visit, I’d taken note of a post on the eatery’s Facebook page about a really good-looking pansanella bread salad.

Tonight I’m told it’s unavailable; then we’re told they’ll knock one up for us anyway!

Our $13 salad is a treat to share, the plentiful, rustic chunks of bread a beaut mix of dressed sogginess and crunch.

 

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My pasta gamberetti ($17) of linguini with king prawns, zucchini and fresh mint is a good ‘un.

It’s a much more generous serve than the impression given by the above photo indicates.

There’s a heap of very good prawns.

The only quibble I have is maybe wanting a bit more zing from chilli or salt or – perhaps – lemon.

On an earlier solo visit by myself for reconnaissance purposes, I’d enjoyed the ortolana pizza ($16, top photo) of San Marzano tomato, mozzarella, grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, mushroom and olives.

Another winner!

There is nothing I do not love about doing Consider The Sauce.

But it’s relatively rare that I enjoy a meal that involves a full house of …

  • Spectacular food.
  • Fantastic prices.
  • Great company.
  • At a place in a surprising location, offering a great atmosphere and super-friendly service.

Claudio, Antoinetta and their team are doing a great job and tonight has been one of those occasions.

For a full menu including prices check out the Pizza d’Asporto website here.

 

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Uncooked puttanesca sauce with short pasta

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This recipe is a simple, quick and cheap winner for summer – or for your typical heatwave!

And it’s another we’ve adapted from Michele Scicolone’s 1,000 Italian Recipes.

Vary the quantities to suit yourself.

We have it warm, with the tomatoes slightly cooked from interaction with the hot, moist pasta.

On this occasion, we used one punnet of tomatoes, a BIG handful of parsley, three fat anchovies, a single fat garlic clove and no capers.

Whatever you do, though, don’t be stingy with the olive oil!

The book lists salt, but we find the anchovies the care of that.

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INGREDIENTS

Cheery tomatoes

Anchovies

Flat-leaf parsley

Capers (optional)

Dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Red chilli or dried red pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

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METHOD

1. Halve tomatoes and place in bowl.

2. Add to bowl finely chopped garlic and anchovies, oregano, chopped chilli and black pepper.

3. Mix.

4. Add hefty doses of extra virgin olive oil.

5. Mix again.

6. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour.

7. Cook pasta, then drain while reserving some of the cooking water.

8. Add pasta to tomato concoction, then mix all ingredients together.

9. Add some of the cooking water if pasta is too dry.

10. Let sit for another five minutes so flavours can blend.

10. Serve.

Pasta and broccoli

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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!

INGREDIENTS

1 head of broccoli

1 packet short pasta

virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic

3-4 anchovies

chilli flakes

parsley (optional)

METHOD

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.

Pasta aglio, olio e peperoncino

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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!

INGREDIENTS

Extra virgin olive oil

Garlic

Anchovies

Chilli flakes

Parsley

Long pasta

METHOD

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.