Wonderful impromptu Italian

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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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Laneway slices

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Slice Girls West, 4 Yewers Street, Footscray. Phone: 9689 6260

Footscray being colonised by a sister restaurant of a successful outfit in Melbourne’s CBD?

Using an unfunny, punny name?

I am in a playfully suspicious frame of mind as Bennie and I march up Yewer Street.

Mind you, I have enjoyed driving here, then parking, as Bennie kept on trying to guess where we’re going.

Yewer Street?

The effect is that it’s more of a laneway – appropriately, Slice Girls West, too, has a laneway vibe.

 

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The eatery space is quite confined but is bright and bohemian.

Contrived?

Maybe a little – but it IS pretty cool.

(The much larger upstairs area is being developed as a bar.)

The service is dispensed with a smile and the wait times are fine.

Spice Girls West offers a handful of square pizzas, four sangers and handful of such things as a hot dog, nachos and salads (see menu below).

The prices are real low.

 

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The Who Do You Think You Are pizza ($12) is lovely with prosciutto, provlone, artichokes and basil.

One review I read before departing opined that the pizzas here are more your American style, with a more spongy crust than usually provided with your Italian-style thin-crust pies.

This is true.

 

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The Cubano sandwich ($14) impresses the hell out of us.

It looks a tad modest for the price but eats quite big.

There’s oozy cheese, ham, pickles, mustard – and pork.

Here’s the thing – this “Citrus Roast Pork” really does have a citrus tang to it.

We’ll back for more this one.

 

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Ovest revisited

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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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Moto a-go-go

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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.

Real Italian – $12

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Riverside Kitchen & Events, 55 Newsom Street, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9326 0525

The longer Consider The Sauce lives in the west, the more delightful are surprises we stumble upon of people and places that have been there all along.

Like Medway Golf Club, Riverside Golf and Tennis Club is tucked away beside the Maribyrnong River in a way that seems almost designed to evade casual discovery.

Even better – much, much better – the catering and food affairs at Riverside go way beyond what may be expected at a golf club.

I’m told that for at least a couple of years, Riverside Kitchen & Events has been running here, delivering the food and service of a traditional, old-school Italian restaurant.

You can check out the full Riverside menu here but tonight the four of us are here to take the place for a spin in the form of the Tuesday’s $12 pizza and pasta specials (see menu below).

 

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The place does has an attractive clubbishness that is not unexpected – it’s a cool place to spend some time and must be a true delight for a sunny summer lunch or early evening weekend dinner.

On a “research” visit a few days previously, I’d spied house-made zippoli, tiramisu and canoli!

The $12 Tuesday menu is a restricted selection of the menu proper’s pizza and pasta line-up – no surprise the five of each evince no presence of seafood, but that’s fine by us.

The food we enjoy is the real deal and of much better quality than we’d find at a similarly priced theme night at, say, a pokie venue or the like.

 

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Only one of we four goes for a pizza.

The Frank Special has mushies, bacon, basil, tomato and mozzarella.

At first we cynically start to think the pie is adorned with the dreaded “pizza ham” – but no, this is real bacon and it makes all the difference.

This is a good pizza, period.

For $12, it’s terrific.

 

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My fettuccine alla bolognese is simple but very enjoyable.

The rich sauce appears to have been made with real meat rather than brought-in mince and the noodles have the sort of suppleness that speaks of made-in-the-kitchen pasta.

We’re assured that all the Riverside pasta is created thusly!

 

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The pasta that comes with the spaghetti al cartoccio is likewise of fine quality.

The parcel’s contents are alive with the flavours of capers, garlic and olives.

This dish tastes and eats a whole lot better than it photographs.

And, as with all three of our pasta choices, the portion size is big.

 

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Bennie’s gnocchi piccanti has good but quite heavy pasta pillows bathing in a rich tomato sauce with chilli and hot salami.

He’s a little underwhelmed but it tastes fine to me and is quite spicy.

 

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Very excellent – bank on it

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

Ovest has been open a while by the time Team CTS visits.

Every time I’ve passed by in recent weeks when the place has been open, it’s been jumping.

So our hopes are high – especially those of my friends, who live just a black away and for whom this shapes as a welcome local of the non-Indian variety.

Our hopes are fulfilled, and in terms of the food well exceeded.

 

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Here’s the bottom line – we have one entree, one side, one pizza, two mains, one dessert, two glasses of wine and a soft drink.

The bill comes to just cents above $40 each.

What an absolute ripping bargain!

We’ve booked at 6pm on a Sunday night – which may have been a mistake as it’s family rush hour, the joint is very noisy and the service is a little scrappy, but not enough to cause any alarm.

When I amble back to my car, post-dinner and after having picked up a wonderful loaf of freshly baked bread from my companions’ place, Ovest is a lot more placid.

The dining room looks a treat and it’s a wonderful thing that this old bank is playing host to such vibrant life.

 

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Coleslaw of cabbage, pear, radish, lemon and parmesan ($12) is a real big serve of yum.

At first, I wish for a little more salt and flavour bite, but by the end I come to love the rather perfumey flavours.

 

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Saganaki kefalograviera, sherry vinegar-soaked currants and pickled onions appears modest of portion but is so rich that three of us are happy.

The cheese has a marvellously toasted and salty crust.

 

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A mushroom pizza with taleggio, caramelised onion and fior de latte ($20) is very, very good, its many fungus chunks having a real meatiness about them.

 

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Tuna nicoise ($26) is a stunner and very generous to boot.

Underneath that handsome slab of fish lie spud discs and heaps of superbly creamy mayo.

My roast of the day (top photo, $25.50) is a simple but good-sized snapper stuffed with lemon.

The fish is lovely but it’s the accompanying salad/salsa that makes this dish sing – the clever addition of pickled chilli discs adds not just random exclamations of heat but also a just-right tartness.

The good, hot chips are served in such quantity that there’s more than enough for us all to share – but then, that’s true of everything we’ve enjoyed.

 

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By the time dessert selections are to be made, we’re stuffed.

So to speak.

So two becomes one with three spoons.

Panna cotta of yogurt, vanilla and strawberry jelly ($10) is just the sort creamy dream you’d expect and lasts all of about, oh, five seconds.

The jelly is a delicately-flavoured delight.

My pals are stoked.

So would I be if this “local” had just opened a minute from my front door!

 

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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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