224A Gertrude St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
It’s a wee bit upsetting when you’ve had pizza on your mind all day, only to find out 10 minutes before leaving work that the restaurant you wanted to go to is closed on Mondays. I mean, whose idea was that? Did they not realise that carb and comfort food cravings are at an all-week high on Mondays? But although opening hours sometimes disappoint, Melbourne never does, and it didn’t take me long to find Ladro Gertrude, an Italian restaurant-cum-pizzeria right in the heart of Fitzroy.
Low-key but clean and classy, Ladro is popular with what seems like everyone and anyone. There is even a pseudo-courtyard out back for larger groups of diners. Like the dining room, the menu itself is rather streamlined as well. There is a small selection of entrees and mains, and a couple handfuls of pizza. That’s not likely to be an issue though, as everything promises to be fresh and mouth-watering. Quality and simplicity seems to be the theme here.
The bread is good; fluffy sourdough thickly sliced, with a slightly chewy crust. The olive oil is even better, bathing the bread with its viscous fruitiness.
The Beetroot + Goats Cheese Arancini ($8) were a complete delight. Someone actually went to the effort to cook beautiful, chewy grains of risotto, seasoned with the sweet earthiness of beetroot, and fry them into golf-ball sized mouthfuls. There was a surprise centre of creamy goat’s cheese, and the smoky capsicum puree gave the arancini a ripe robustness.
I’m a margherita sort of girl, but I’ve heard great things about the Badabing ($20.5), and hey, when in Rome right?
Unlike the mild-mannered margherita, the Badabing is an explosive mix of tomatoes, pork sausage, oregano, and chilli. Each slice was thin and chewy, aided by the slightly crisp layer of melted provolone. The sausage was marvellous; surprisingly delicate in flavour, but juicy and chunky. My only gripe was that there was none of the promised basil; it would’ve been ideal for countering the sheer intensity of the flavours.
On the side we had the Insalata Spinaci ($11), a simple green salad of spinach, peas, and ricotta dressed with lemon and olive oil. The shredded mint leaves were a refreshing surprise.
Ethan talked me into sharing dessert, and I thought I’d take this chance to have the Tiramisu ($12.5), which normally isn’t an option because Chris hates coffee. I know, he’s broken. Anyway, this Tiramisu was the real deal. Presented prettily in a jar, each spoonful was a perfect mix of cool, airy mascarpone, dark chocolate sauce, and boozy sponge fingers soaked with a heady shot of espresso. And the icing on top of the cake? The chocolate coated popping candy!
In true Italian style, the emphasis here is on good, simple food, meticulously prepared with seasonal ingredients. They even had a chef’s hat for 6 years, from 2005-2011. Although they’re no longer quite at hatted level, given just how quickly Melbourne’s dining scene has evolved in the last few years, it seems pretty hard to go wrong here.
Rating: 14/20 – badaboom!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.