29 March, 2010


350 Nicholson St, Fitzroy; (03) 9077 2013

(Note: the pictures in this post are of a notably higher quality than my usual - because I didn't take them, and the person who did has better skills and equipment! Many thanks to JC)

What is a 'true' Italian restaurant? One of Fitzroy's newer additions, L'Angolo, claims it opened in response to Melbourne's need for one. It's a disingenuous term, since in Melbourne we tend to be savvy enough about Italian cuisine to sneer - albeit discreetly - at places that try to cover the whole boot. We embrace restaurants that declare themselves to be all about the toe, heel and, most commonly, the poor little island about to get a kicking.

What is setting L'Angolo apart at the moment is its (hopefully) monthly themed nights, where it zooms in to a particular region of Italy. In March, the region in the spotlight was Sicily, in particular Palermo. For $60, guests feasted on four signature dishes and supped a glass of Sicilian wine. Brilliant value. Notably too, the dishes on offer are not merely a re-ordering of their everyday mains. This shows a commitment to making the event special, though it's also a shame when a stand-out dish isn't one you can go back for later.

First out to the table were the antipasti palermitani. Note that this is one of two platters that came to our table of four. This platter isn't on their regular menu - if it were, this plus a glass of wine (starting at $6.50 for a house red) would make for a wonderful, cheap night out.
Let's start at the front: baby bruschetta with a dollop of caponatina (eggplant cooked with tomatoes and olives); going anti-clockwise, the next items are torta salata di spinaci (probably the least exciting item); at the back nestle panelle, little buns filled with wonderful chickpea fritters; and sfincionello, Sicilian focaccia topped with caramelised onion and tomato - delicious, but a little hefty given there were three courses to come! In the middle are two fine arancinette, as well as some rocket and pecorino. As a group they made for a lovely presentation, and each one highlighted its own distinct Sicilian flavours.

Both the primi piatti and secondo featured swordfish, but in two very different fashions. The primi piatti was a triumph. Spotted from a distance heading to other tables, it looked like a delicious dessert. Instead, up close, it revealed itself as slivers of eggplant elegantly draped over a skein of spaghetti, within which hid morsels of swordfish, delightfully set off by a touch of mint. L'Angolo call the dish a timballetto, which is normally pasta in puff pastry, but their own take on encased noodles was superb.

In the main dish of involtini di spada the swordfish held its own morsels, this time of breadcrumb dotted with raisins and pine nuts. Alongside were some so-so prawns alla palermitana (the flesh was a little gluggy) and a fennel and orange salad, a welcome aid to digestion at this point in the meal.

What was notable about the savoury courses was the lack of red meat. While doubling up on the main flesh (swordfish) at first seemed surprising, it in fact made the four courses far easier to stomach, and made a welcome change to having to leave half a scotch fillet behind by the time you get to the main course.

For dessert it could only be one thing: cannoli, filled with ricotta, a hint of marsala and 'scaglie' (shavings) of chocolate.As with the swordfish in the timballetto and the raisins in the involtini, those little studs of choc were a treasure of taste, ensuring that these richer ingredients didn't overpower the bulkier ones - perhaps therein lies their claim to be purveyors of 'real' Italian food.

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