132 Lygon St
Brunswick, VIC 3057
I have a co-worker I’m rather jealous of. She lives in Brunswick, which means she has her choice of Deliveroo/Ubereats from any of the surrounding suburbs, and that includes everything from 400 Gradi to Jimmy Grants, as well as Kumo Izakaya and Mankoushe. And amongst her list of favourite restaurants to order from is Bar Idda, an unpretentious little Sicilian eatery at the top end of Lygon Street.
The atmosphere at Bar Idda really is stunning. The outfit is deliberately dated and provincial, and whilst that would feel tacky in any other suburb, it feels just right in ethnic, hipster Brunswick. Seated by the window, with the whitewashed walls and herbs hanging in bunches to one side, and the dim streetlights casting a glow over the al fresco tables on the other, you really could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re still in Melbourne.
And what’s more Italian than a loaf of crusty sourdough and a deep dish of fruity olive oil? Absolutely nothing, and I gobbled this up, only remembering at the last minute to save a slice to mop up sauces during the meal.
Speaking of sauce-mopping, the Mulinchiani ($14) is exactly the kind of thing you want a good side of sourdough for. Think eggplant cut into paper-thin slices, layered with a mixture of herbs, tomato paste, and mozzarella, then baked until it’s sweet, pulpy, and soaked with the rich flavour of garlicky tomato sugo.
The Arancino ($4ea) is another easy item to order. The crispy, golden nuggets were filled with chewy rice, a hint of cauliflower, all bound together with oozing fontina cheese. Addictive? Definitely.
Wanting to get away from our regular order of pasta in ragu, I decided to give the Cous Cous ($20) a go instead. Tossed with grains, fried calamari, and school prawns in a full-flavoured tomato dressing, there was a bold juxtaposition between the rich seafood and the handfuls of fresh mint and parsley. This can double either as a light meal or a heavy salad – your choice.
I’ve heard great things about the Pisci ‘mpanattu ($30), or the pan fried barramundi with almond flakes. Hidden under the nutty crumble of toasted almonds and breadcrumbs were sweet, delicate fillets of fish. The honest flavours were allowed to shine with a simple dollop of salsa verde made with fresh parsley and good olive oil, and of course, a generous squeeze of lemon.
It’s times like this which I am glad for my dessert stomach, as the Cassata ($12) seemed too good to miss. A classic cake consisting of liqueur-soaked sponge layered with ricotta, chocolate chips, and encased in a shell of marzipan, this was a treat for sure. Each bite melted in the mouth, and the marizipan, instead of being thick and cloying, was delicate and sweet with a hint of nuttiness. Despite not being one for coffee in the evening, I would’ve loved a cup to go with this.
After having so many gussied up Italian meals recently, I’ll admit that the rustic, down-to-earth recipes at Bar Idda are a bit of a shock to the system. This is home-styled cooking for sure, so expect the comforting, not the high-end. With that said, I found the meal to be pleasant and comforting, if a little bit pricy. But more importantly, this is the kind of cooking you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere other than a family kitchen, and that alone should explain Bar Idda’s popularity.
Rating: 13.5/20 – nonna’s kitchen.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.