I have plans to revisit Italy next year. I.CAN’T. WAIT!
Besides my usual comfort food of rice, noodles and singapore hawker fare…pasta comes in at no. 2. It’s the food of choice when I run out of dinner ideas, or there’s nothing much left in the fridge or when I feel like a good old carbo fill-up. Outside of Italy, there are countless number of good italian restaurants. Some cheap and good, and some just makes you wonder how much you’re paying per strand of spaghetti.
Back in Melbourne Australia, there’s ‘little italy’ in Lygon Street. Restaurants range from the cosy Mama Papa family-run eateries to the churn-out-pizzas-by-the-minute joints. However my favourite italian restaurant in Melbourne is not resident of the famed italian street. It’s a Grand Prix memorabilia-filled restaurant called Woodstock Cafe in Fitzroy North. The wooden panel lined walls are covered with pictures of cars and Grand Prix events, there’s a Vespa and a vintage Fiat in the middle of the dining room…splendid. And the food has a comforting home-cooked style to it. Pizzas are paper thin yet has a nice chewy texture and topped simply with fresh ingredients like parma ham and peppery rocket. Pastas are cooked to perfection, al-dente and there’s no overkill on ingredients or flavours. Simple. Best part of my last experience there – we were offered fresh out of the oven apple strudel by ‘mama woodstock’, provided we finished our food! Makes you feel like you’re sitting in grandma’s kitchen. Last I heard, they’ve now renovated and I’m not even sure the Fiat is still there…time for a visit methinks!
Back to pasta. Outside of italy, one of my most memorable pasta meals was in a little restaurant in North End, Boston called Ristorante Fiore on Hanover Street. Similar to Lygon in Melbourne, North End is chock full of Italian restaurants and businesses. It was in this little restaurant that my view of risotto was forever changed. I never used to like risotto as I felt it’s usually gluggy and much too heavy, but the clam risotto that we ordered was quite the opposite! The rice was cooked to perfection, with every grain beautifully coated with the clam juices and sauce. The flavours were robust, clams were fresh and succulent, and there was just no fault to this dish.
The lobster ravioli was just as delicious, with large parcels of lobster-filled goodness in a tangy tomato sauce with just a touch of creme fraiche. The servings were not large, as expected in almost all US-based eateries, but it was well portioned for one. Enough to have you lick the plate clean, not too little to have you crave for more. Just perfect.
Also in line for some pasta fame were linguini with french beans tossed in fresh pesto and pappardelle in slow cooked beef ragu. They were non-fancy, down to earth good pasta meals and one that I remember with much fondness.
Sitting in the little courtyard with good friends, basking in the sun – nothing could have been better then except maybe….one more serve of that delectable clam risotto please?