PIMP MY PLATE is back in Australia and back to a budget of AUD$19-ish.
This month I’ve been posting a series of three café reviews focused on one particular dish – Spaghetti Bolognese. See my previous September reviews: Bravo and No Name.
A traditional version of Bolognese sauce includes onion, celery, and carrot, different types of minced or chopped beef, and sometimes small amounts of fatty pork, red wine, tomato concentrate and/or ripe tomatoes.
This week I twirl my fork at an Italian restaurant in Leichhardt. This is the third and last restaurant I’ll be reviewing in my search for that old favourite, Spaghetti Bolognese.
Bar Italia Restaurant – Ristorante #3
BAR ITALIA opened its doors in 1952. With a sunny façade and its Italian tricolour awning, it sits midway down Norton Street, Sydney’s hub of Italian restaurants and stores. Nearby is a cake store that features an elaborate and mesmerising cake in its window – designed to celebrate a First Holy Communion – a giant cannolo tied with a blue ribbon.
If you like your coffee Italian-style –strong and full of flavour – this is one of the few places in Sydney you’ll find it.
Ordering at the counter is simple – once you can decide! The blackboard menu is extensive, and inexpensive.
Spaghetti Bolognese is my choice and I don’t even have to check the menu to see if it’s on it.
My order of Spaghetti Bolognese ($15.50), Garlic Bread ($3.50), and a Flat White coffee ($3.50) makes a satisfying and filling meal for $23.00.
Aside from Schnitzels, every option on the blackboard menu meets my usual Pimp My Plate $19 budget. There’s Focaccia and Paninis ($8.50), Pasta, Lamb Shanks ($18.50), Veal ($18.50), Soups ($12.90), Corsica Pizza ($19.50), and Sirloin Steak ($18.50). And they do Vegetarian Lasagne ($15.50).
BAR ITALIA is divided into two sections – the restaurant area, and the gelataria, where you can order a gelato and a coffee and sit at a table to eat it.
You can sit inside the restaurant near the framed Godfather LP record, or outdoors, under a canopy of flowering pink bougainvillea. I sit outside with the breeze occasionally sprinkling my table with petals.
My coffee arrives first, in a traditional red and green Vittoria Coffee porcelain cup. It’s what I call ‘industrial strength’ and that’s just how I like my coffee. And it’s coffee without compromise! There’s no Skim Milk, no Light Milk, and no Soy Milk served here.
My side of garlic bread and bowl of spaghetti arrives and I spy the now familiar powdered parmesan cheese.
The spaghetti is al dente, and the Bolognese sauce is good, if basic. There’s no parsley, no carrot, no celery, but the other two restaurants didn’t include those ingredients in their sauce either.
The garlic bread, a Kaiser roll, is better than most. Even so, I can’t finish eating it. Likewise, the quantity of spaghetti is too generous to finish eating it either.
I feel the need to apologise to the waiter when she comes to clear my table. No one likes food wastage.
In the unlikely event I was to run a marathon, this would be the fuel I’d consume. Instead, I plan a long walk along Norton Street, with a food-for-thought stopover at Berkelouw’s bookstore in lieu of dessert.
BAR ITALIA is the type of Italian café-restaurant we all want and need – in every suburb. It’s nice that the staff speaks Italian; it’s nice that the vibe is so relaxed; and it’s nice that you can eat a meal or just sit and enjoy a scoop of gelato.
* * *
That brings my quest ‘to see how easy it would be to find Spaghetti Bolognese on the menu’ to an end – for now. I’ll leave it for you to decide which restaurant offers the best overall value.
None of the three restaurants cooked a traditional Bolognese sauce – containing carrots, celery, or bacon, and none offered the option of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
With than in mind, I’ll be posting my own recipe for Spaghetti Bolognese tomorrow, that you can cook yourself.
RATED: Chillaxed and well-fed FOOD: 3.5/5
VALUE: 4/5 ATMOS: Authentic VIBE: Old skool Italian
BAR ITALIA – 169-171 Norton Street, Leichhardt, Sydney, NSW
(Note: cash only, no cards. There is a multi-bank ATM facility on site)
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