I had been promising my sister a pasta and gelato date for the next time I’m in Melbourne for months, only to realise a few days before coming back that the only day we can go out is on a Sunday… the day which Grossi Cellar Bar, my sister’s favourite place for pasta, happens to be closed. After a bit of frantic searching on my part, I found Lupino – a well-established and well-reviewed Italian restaurant that I’ve oddly never come across in all my years exploring Melbourne.
Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a pizza?? I do – it’s literally been over 6 months, I kid you not. As expected, the cravings hit a critical mass somewhere around March this year, and I found myself at Rosso Antico. I’ve been eyeing off Rosso Antico for over a year now, ever since I first stumbled across it on my way to Bovine and Swine. I was impressed with how legitimately Italian their menu looked, and their adorable pizza chefs certainly didn’t hurt either. The humble Margherita ($18) is my benchmark for sussing out the quality of a new pizza restaurant, and Rosso Antico fell somewhere in the middle of the road with their rendition. On the up-side, the crust was a gloriously tall and puffy with a healthy dusting of char, and was a complete joy to eat. But I would have liked to see a more robust and intense tomato flavour, as this tasted a little watered-down, and didn’t have enough complexity to bring out the creaminess of the mozzarella.
One year on, I’m still trying to find the perfect pasta in Sydney that doesn’t break the bank. Although I’ve had a few bowls here and there, I found that most of the time they’re either cheap and super inauthentic, or pricey but only somewhat authentic. Admittedly I haven’t been looking around as much as I would have wanted to – at $30 or so per dish, it’s just a little bit out of my price range for casual meals. But last year, La Favola burst onto the Newtown scene in a whirl of rave reviews, with bold promises of freshly made pasta and Authentic Italian, all for something like $20 a bowl – consider me sold.
Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can stomach dining with me. I will always passive-aggressively insist on picking the restaurant (after falsely offering the privilege of choice to my unfortunately companion), and as soon as something has been agreed on, I will go ahead and change my mind to something entirely different. This will occur approximately once a day until the day of the meal, where I am forced to decide on a restaurant. But the ordeal doesn’t stop there. Once we actually arrive at the restaurant, I am a flaky dining companion at best, and a mortifying one at worst. I will get up without warning to take photos of the interior, garnering stares from diners and staff alike, before burying myself in my phone to take notes for the blog post I plan on writing later. And believe it or not, there’s more! Once the food arrives, I’ll spend another 5 or so minutes taking photos from every angle, barking at my dining companions to move limbs and possessions out of the way, and insisting on them helping me with tricky food manoeuvres in order to get the perfect shot. The food is definitely cold by the time any actual eating occurs.
As someone who usually identifies as a glass-half-empty sort of person, I can be remarkably optimistic when it comes to food. Despite an appalling experience at the well-rated Encasa, as well as the general consensus that Spanish food in Sydney just isn’t that great, I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I heard about Bar Tapa, which promises to be unapologetically Spanish. On a Saturday night, Bar Tapa has a convivial, buzzing vibe, and if it feels a little everyman, it’s made up for by the energy of the diners. The wall-to-wall Spanish memorabilia makes for some good conversation starters, and definitely adds to the authentic feel.
One of the suckiest things about being in Sydney is not having my sister around at all times. I’ve gotten rather used to her in the last 15-odd years, and I’ll admit it was rather jarring to not have her constantly in my hair all of a sudden. On the bright side however, during the times we do see each other (when one of us is on holiday), we manage to get some excellent quality time in – in this case, in pasta form. My sister loves good pasta more than any other food, and given that the only times she gets fancy restaurant pasta is when she’s with me, I spent weeks leading up to her visit agonising over where to take her. Eventually I settled on Bacco, which promised a modern and refined take on Italian food, and has a chef’s hat accompanied by a glowing review from The Good Food Guide to boot.