It was my birthday last week. And to celebrate, my date took me out to dinner at Italian & Sons.
Being a frugal foodie, I had heard that is not exactly cheap for an (admittedly upper market) café style Italian restaurant. I would guess it is probably the most expensive Italian restaurant in Canberra. Which explains why I had not dined there before now. My date chose this restaurant after I said I wanted to finish the meal with a Lonsdale St Mr Frugii ice-cream cone, which set him off on a quest to secure an elusive table booking. Being a busy night, our place was at the relatively early time of 6.15pm.
I hadn’t been to Lonsdale St since the start of winter. The strip has become hip in recent years, but in the space of just months even more new restaurants and cafes have sprouted up. The vibe, compounded by good business on a public sector pay day, was upbeat and fun. This is a trendy place to be seen, and arguably the trendiest place to hangout is people-watching from the front room of Italian & Sons as we did. If you’re in the back rather than the room with the view you will be rewarded with views of the semi-open kitchen including the busy pizza oven. And further out the very back is an award-winning semi-secret bar, Bacaro, that has an extensive wine list.
We began our meal with a glass of sparkling NV Prosecco ($32 for two small/medium glasses), reminiscing about our recent trip along the Prosecco Road at King Valley. With assistance from the sommelier, who was tactful enough not to be offended when my date scoffed at his suggestion of bottle of Chianti, we settled on a smooth Sicilian red Cos Cerasuolo ($85).
Roast suckling pig with bitter greens
Prior to dining someone told me to order whatever specials are on offer as they are always good. My date followed those instructions, ordering an entrée of three scallops with bright green pea puree ($22). He didn’t share, an indication that it was very good. For main he went for roast suckling pig (with crackling) on a bed of bitter greens ($37). The meat was tender and tasty and the crackling cracked. Thankfully it was just a square piece of the pig rather than the whole baby pig head, which can be a tad confronting. The greens looked suspiciously like ordinary silverbeet, but whatever the vegetable it complemented the richness of the pork nicely.
Scallops with pea puree
I stuck to menu options, ordering an entrée of marinated sardines (sarde in soar), served with orange, pine nuts & currants ($18). I was surprised the dish was covered with oil, but it was lovely fishy olive oil (not at all like cheap tinned cousins), and we ordered a plate of sourdough bread ($4) to mop it up.
Sarde in soar (Sardines with pinenuts, currants and orange)
I stuck to my traditional favorite of ravioli, here cappelletti with buffalo milk ricotta, asparagus, aged reggiano & burnt sage butter ($32) (pictured at top). With eight pieces on a plate my frugal maths brain worked it out at $4 for each piece. That said, it was soft and simple and special all at once, and I savoured each mouthful.
Service was attentive and brisk. Being an early sitting, it was clear that we were not expected to linger. Towards the end of our meal we began to get slightly annoyed by the waiters running in and out between the closely packed tables setting up for the next sitting. And while on the subject of tables, while very stylishly set up with white paper I do miss the elegance of white linen, especially for the price of the meals.
What: Italian & Sons
Where: 7 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Telephone: 02 6162 4888