The 24 year old Italian

It’s no secret that I love to eat Italian food. So when it was my turn to pick a Sydney restaurant to celebrate an early Christmas and mark the end of a brilliant year with friends, I drew up a shortlist of ten restaurants of which quite a few were Italian. The criteria was simple…..bloody great food required! From a bit of simple research, reading this and that – this is what I came up with:

1. Sepia

2. La Scala

3. The Devonshire

4. Almond Bar

5. Il Perugino

6. A Tavola

7. Assiette

8. Duke Bistro

9. Sake 

10. Buzo

I questioned do I try somewhere new that has had rave reviews or do I book somewhere tried and true. After some discussion with Mr ELG, I went with the latter.

Numero cinque; Il Perugino

I first went to Il Perugino 11 years ago. Memories of that night are bloody great food, no menus with the waiter telling you what is being served instead and lots of people talking, chatting and simply enjoying their food. Over the years I have been back numerous times and the memory never changes; just the people at my table and the food of course, as the seasons change. Situated on Avenue Road in Mosman, Sydney next door to the drycleaners, Il Perugino has been in the same place for 24 years, run by passionate people who describe the menu to you like poetry. Last night as I was listening to the menu (they did introduce postcard menus a couple of years back but go through the detail all the same), I was salivating from one course to the next and the food wasn’t even in front of me yet. At the next table, a man was devouring a steaming bowl of fresh seafood while his friend had ordered the lamb shank and I watched the meat just melt away from the bone. With Antipasti on the way, this menu had too many choices; a lovely position to be in rather than no inspiration at all.

Teasing the tastebuds, the Antipasti was laid in front of us and did not fail to excite. Button mushrooms, artichoke hearts, mussels, fritters and eggplant swooped in seconds.

Next up for me were the duck, sage and burnt butter crepes. Mr ELG ordered the salmon carpaccio. One word; delicious. Actually two words; magnificently delicious!

As a main, Mr ELG and I ordered the same dish (very rare) and again, from the kitchens of Il Perugino came a marvelous flavour from such simple ingredients; pappardelle, zucchini, garlic, olive oil, parsley and vongole.

We couldn’t not eat dessert and the four of us with no hesitation each ordered a sweetie with the promise to share. The tiramisu was tantalising, the limoncello cheesecake with baked rhubarb and blood orange gelato was so refreshing, the warm apple and walnut cake was comforting and the passion-fruit creme brulee made it hard to share!

As I looked around the room last night on the Tuesday before Christmas, all the tables were full and there were babies, children, young and old enjoying the moorish moments. Il Perugino is a local to be loved and in fact, numero uno in my mind.

Il Perugino @ 171 Avenue Road, Mosman Sydney 2088

Little Italy on Hastings Street, Noosa

I always maintain…a great restaurant is one you go back to twice, three times and then who’s really counting at that point? Especially when it’s located in another state, it’s 2 hours away and that’s just flight time.

In terms of what Aussies love to eat, I am certain that Italian food rates up there in most people’s top 5 and well for me it certainly does. I know Chinese, Indian and Japanese are favourites too in terms of our ever-evolving palates but for me, #1 is my love for a food that hails from that gorgeous Mediterranean boot of a country! I love to whip up a spag bol after work (from scratch – none of this bottled sauce for me please!), I often crave for rich lasagne with lots of bechamel sauce, I have boxes of Pastabilities Roast Duck with Star Anise ravioli in my freezer (just in case) and I cannot ever go past ordering spaghetti/linguine/fettuccine/tagilatelle/pappardelle marinara when dining in an Italian restaurant. I immediately scan a menu for this when I am in a restaurant and if I have been there before I know what I am ordering before I have sat down.

This was the case when I went back to Lindoni’s on Hastings Street, Noosa at the beginning of March this year. It was just under two years ago that I was in Noosa for the jazz festival and I dined at this al fresco Italian restaurant with black and white checkerboard tiles, handpainted pictures of Positano adorning the walls and knowledgeable waiters milling around telling me of the night’s specials. Grazing over the menu which was in both Italian and English, my eyes quickly picked up on Fettuccine Marinara al Cartoccio. The waiter explained that this was not your average marinara but baked and served in a paper bag and that this was a “fine decision!” Fine was an understatement ~ magnificent and eternally etched into memory is a better description!

Two weekends ago, I was back in Noosa on a family weekend. I said to my sisters who share my love of Italian food, “I promise this will be the highlight.” I didn’t lie. While the others purveyed the menu and ordered other tantalising tit-bits, one of my sisters and I ordered just as I had two years ago. Not just your average waiter, Tony also picked up my growing 32-week belly and omitted the mussels on my order this time around (as I mentioned above; ever-knowledgeable and on the ball). Just as my hunger pains peaked, out came the dish ~ the baking paper was removed with a flick of the wrist and out poured a steaming yet delightful version of Marinara and for the next 20 minutes it was all about me and the plate and my love affair continued.

The home-made tiramisu finished off the night for me and confirmed that when in Noosa, do as the Italian lovers do and go to Lindoni’s. Book so you’re not disappointed as the restaurant fills up most nights. And now I wonder when will I get back to Noosa next…?

Lindoni’s @ 13 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads QLD