Otello Trattoria Pizzeria, West End, Brisbane 

Before heading to a marketing event, Clare and I sauntered around in search of dinner. I can never say no to Italian so when Clare suggested it I was already halfway inside the door. 

We started with some lovely calamari and a shared plate of tagliatelle, olives and prawns in a napoli sauce. The pasta was wonderfully fresh and perfectly al dente, the prawns succulent and the sauce the perfect compliment. 

I sipped a lovely Chianti, Clare enjoyed a beer and the service was very helpful. 

It’s a small, quaint and quiet place, I’d love to try a pizza next! 

   
 

Jamie’s Italian, Brisbane

If I’d known the night would end with Firemen I would have definitely urged for a booking. As it turned out we only had half an hour to wait in the bar before being called to a table.

Jamie’s Italian has a unique feel to it. The interior is a mish mash of industrial and market place with giant crystal chandeliers contrasting against the piping and brick work.

I ordered arancini balls and the polenta chips to start and the girls shared a bottle of house white. The polenta balls were soft inside with a crispy outside and hit the spot. They’re a favourite at all his restaurants. The arancini was nice but nothing to call home about.

At the table I ordered a glass of Jamie’s favourite red – it was delightful. I see why it’s his favourite and definitely recommend if you’re a red drinker.

The staff are quite attentive and they’re obviously trained to engage in conversation about the food. If my waitress said ‘it’s sooo delicious’ one more time with that big smile, I’m not sure what would have happened! Personally I don’t particularly enjoy engaging in convo when it’s interrupting the convo I’m already having with my friends at the table. Can’t say they weren’t polite though.

I hands down had the best main. Lauren went with the pasta of the day which was a fettuccine with salumi and lemon, I found it quite bland. Trish ordered the lamb and ricotta tortellini which was beautifully presented and tasted nice.. But shouldn’t something from Jamie’s taste better than nice? I had the beef carpaccio which again was nice but the star meal, even though they bought me the wrong one to begin, was the truffle tagliatelle. I’m a sucker for truffles but this was seriously, in the words of my waitress, sooo delicious!!

All the meals are very reasonably priced. Big portions of the pasta meals are only $25.

The fun and games started not long afterwards with a VERY loud siren sounding and some obviously untrained staff standing staring at each other. We were told to remain in our seats for a while. Eventually we saw and smelt smoke coming up from the lower level and were asked to evacuate.

Cue fire engines arriving at the door while we waited in the park.

Not the best look for a new restaurant.

 

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

The Art of Eating – La Cucina Di Sandra

I had the absolute pleasure of joining a northern Italian cooking class with La Cucina Di Sandra in Richmond, Melbourne recently. As you all know, I love Italian and I love to cook and learn, so you can imagine my excitement building up to the evening! Sandra casually takes you through an entire meal in her kitchen, teaching you about products, techniques, recipes and serving. Her witty quips and vast knowledge makes for a fantastic evening.

As you walk into Sandra’s house you feel immediately inspired. It’s bright, it’s beautiful and there’s a great vibe. Italian music floods your ears as you are introduced to the others (three lovely ladies in my case) and seated at the kitchen bench where your notes are waiting and you are poured a glass of beautiful wine and offered some delightful, freshly baked polenta cookies.

Then it’s go time! Sandra wants to demonstrate that Italian cooking isn’t just pizza and pasta. It’s much, much broader than that. So with that in mind the entrée we learnt was was tortellini nudi, or tortellini meatballs. It was very different to anything I had ever tried. A different texture too and when combined with the chopped pistachios and baked pasta sticks it made for a really different sensation in your mouth. I would never have thought to put all those different ingredients together!

Sandra has pre-prepared a lot of the meal. Everything is measured and ready and waiting for her. This saves lots of time so you can focus on the exciting parts and chat more about Italy; the food, the culture, the music. She then put’s everything together while you watch, explaining the process and you have prime position to watch her cooking on the element. She has so many hints and tricks, I know I said it earlier but her knowledge on Italy, cooking and ingredients is amazing. Would you believe she has over 500 cookbooks sitting around her apartment?! 500! She uses an online directory to help her find specific recipes. Blew my mind.

The next entree is gamberi alla fonduta di gorgonzola, or prawns in gorgonzola fondue. Now, I’m not sure if I have told you about how I feel about gorgonzola but my goodness, it has to be one of my favourite cheeses. Again, this is a dish that wouldn’t have ever crossed my mind but I would happily serve at a dinner party!

Sandra was born in the centre of Italy, about 1.5hours from Rome, and has been in Australia 40-ish years. These classes have been her dream for about twenty years. Her passion shines through.

We consume the entrées at the bench while Sandra starts on the main. Maiale in crosta di pancetta, or pork fillet rolled in pancetta. She dices up vegetables and fries a pork strap in some cream before taking it out, wrapping it in pancetta and finishing it in the oven while the asiago cheese sauce is bubbling away on the bench. All this with such an air of enjoyment and relaxation. You can tell it is her true passion.

Sandra started the classes at the end of June and soon needed to add more on to keep up with demand. She now runs two classes per week and sometimes an extra for bespoke events. Keep an eye out for her finger food classes which will be on their way soon!

We are shown how to serve the dish and ushered to the table to enjoy the meal together. Sandra’s husband has arrived home and adds to the great mix of people we have in the group. I think he must time it perfectly to get in for the main meal – smart man!  The pork is tender, the prosciutto crisp and the vegetable flan finishes it all off. The sauce is to die for. Asiago cheese base and generously poured. I’m practically drooling at the memory.

Back to the kitchen bench, Sandra demonstrates how to throw together quick tiramisu. She chooses her recipes keeping in mind a number of factors and having the time to be with your guests during a dinner party is one of them. Even though I was full I still managed to eat most of it! The mascarpone mix with the quality choc and cocoa was unreal. Unlike many tiramisu’s the coffee flavour (I don’t like coffee) wasn’t too empowering.

We sat around chatting for quite some time after dinner about not only the food but our backgrounds and passions.

All in all it was a phenomenal evening and I would definitely suggest it to anyone in or visiting Melbourne.

I will leave you with a few of the tidbits I learnt from Sandra during the evening. I won’t tell you them all though because you need to go find out for yourself!

  • Mediterranean Wholesalers on Sydney Street in Melbourne have pretty much anything you could want to cook with at a great price and best quality
  • Dolce means sweet, picante means savoury in Italian
  • Mortadella is called bologna in Italy
  • Prosciutto comes from the leg of the Pig
  • Cucina means cuisine or kitchen in Italian

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Rococo, Hawthorn, Melbourne

I’m seriously going to have to up my work out routine in this city! All this amazing Italian food, I can’t help but visit and stuff myself full of pasta!

Last night out coffee didn’t cut it so we continued on to Rococo in Hawthorne. Is heard the rumours this place was good, but wow.

Starting with cocktails (arguably the most important) I let the waitress choose for me and was delivered a apple and passion fruit mojito. Very sweet but very good.

For our starter the three of us shared the char grilled calamari, with a dash of fresh lemon and I followed that with the spaghetti with char grilled seafood in a lemon and garlic olive oil. It was absolutely devine. I can not fault it and my biggest issue was deciding when to stop eating as I was considerably full!!

I couldn’t possibly fit dessert but my friend ordered the affogato from which I stole a cookie and to my delight it was amaretto flavoured! 20140717-155506-57306011.jpg

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Rococo Glenferrie Rd on Urbanspoon

Thirty Eight Chairs

Want great Italian, an intimate atmosphere and some of the friendliest waiters around? This is your place.

I’ve been twice to Thirty Eight Chairs lately and each time it’s wowed me. Not just the food but also how great the service is. You know a place is good when the staff are greeting half the customers by name.

It’s a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Low lighting, smaller venue and it’s bustling.

Each time we have had wonderful waiters, they look after you and help you with your meal choice.

On my first visit I had a scallop and asparagus risotto, it was perfectly cooked and the scallops were melting in my mouth. Lisa had the pasta of the day and Ru had the gnocchi; couldn’t fault any of them.

On my second visit I had the fettuccine, which was with smoked aubergine, crabmeat, langoustine and tropea onion. I was practically sighing with happiness. We also shared some starters – the pork belly, wag you bresaola, scallops and caprese, all of which, again were incredible.

Both time I had the house red, it’s Italian and went well with my meal.

You’ll find it’s just off Chapel Street on Bond Street in South Yarra.

Ps. Pics reflect the mood lighting in there! Couldn’t bring myself to use flash.

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Thirty Eight Chairs on Urbanspoon

Portofino’s Restaurant and The Library Bar Wellington

Well, these two weren’t on my list but I managed to visit them both anyway!

My mate Ty from uni invited me out for dinner and he chose Portofino’s – who was I to argue?! I love Italian!

I felt bad as I was 5 mins late (got carried away after I found sale flights to Singapore) however I needn’t have as Ty was about 20mins late! Lucky I had the big, beautiful, resident boat, The World to stare at while I waited.

We started with an antipasti platter, I had the house red and Ty a toblerone cocktail. I feel rude not drinking wine with Italian although the cocktail list was tempting. The platter was nice, especially the feta. Probably wouldn’t go to town raving about it but it was nice and good value.

For a main I had the spaghetti marinara with a salsa sauce. It was great, there were lots of fresh mussels in their shell and all throughout the pasta there was baby mussels, calamari and shrimp which places often skimp out on. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, it was lovely. Tyronne had the seafood risotto, which was quite similar to mine but with risotto instead of spaghetti I would say. Both were beautifully presented and the service was lovely. We did get kicked out however after our meals were cleared as they wanted to shut.

We went for a walk along the water and checked out the cruise ship some more. Spectacular. I wish they would have taken me with them.

We ended up cruising along Courtney Place. Ty was keen to kick on but I was pretty tired and not feeling too adventurous (unlike me, right?!) so we decided to head to The Library Bar for a drink. I’d been there briefly before when waiting to get in Chow. What an awesome venue! My photos don’t do anything for it but it has a great vibe. Cosy, dim lit atmosphere with live music and filled with ‘hipster’ types and a rockin’ cocktail list. They had two for one dessert but I was super full.

I had a lovely cocktail – pomegranate, vodka, mint and soda but Ty had the best one! I can’t remember what it was called but it was in a martini glass and second from the bottom on the list of House Cocktails. Delicious.

I’d walked past this place on Tory Street a few times called Checkmate and we decided to see what it was. I had presumed it was a bar/lounge… wrong. So wrong! It is actually a Sauna for gay men. They sell also sorts of ‘enhancers’ and I had a humorous chat with the bloke behind a plastic window in the wall. Now I know…20140423-150544.jpg20140423-150621.jpg20140423-150653.jpg20140423-150640.jpg

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Portofino on Urbanspoon

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