PIMP MY PLATE is back in Australia and back to a budget of AUD$19-ish.
This month I’m posting a series of three café reviews focused on one particular dish. Remember that old Italian-Australian favourite Spaghetti Bolognese?
‘Pimp my Bolognese!’
Spaghetti – do you swirl it, scoop it, or slurp it?
In Italian cuisine Bolognese sauce is used to dress tagliatelle al ragù and to prepare lasagne. Or other broad, flat pasta shapes like pappardelle or fettuccine. In Australia, however, the sauce is synonymous with spaghetti.
How do you feel about those two words: Spaghetti Bolognese? Can you remember the days when every Italian restaurant table in Australia wore a red checked tablecloth, and an empty wax-covered Chianti bottle sat on top of it? Or maybe you’ve parked that dish too far back in your memory?
Or maybe you’ve never even seen it on a menu?!
In Italian cuisine Bolognese sauce is known as ragù alla Bolognese, a meat-based sauce originating from, you guessed it, Bologna, in Italy.
A traditional version of the 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.
Most Italian restaurants in Australia have now replaced red checked tablecloths with crisp white ones, or smooth wooden tabletops. Bottles of Chianti are stocked behind the bar unless you BYO – Australian vernacular for ‘Bring Your Own’.
In 2016 has Spaghetti Bolognese disappeared from menus altogether? My quest is to find out.
I’ll be reviewing three plates of Spaghetti Bolognese from three different restaurants, over three weeks. Each week I’ll post a review, and it’s up to you to choose which version you’d prefer to eat.
Bravo Trattoria – Ristorante #1
Over the years BRAVO has changed its menu, and its location. The ‘old’ BRAVO, situated in busy Falcon Street, opened in 1995. Its front counter was THE go-to for true Italian gelato, and people – including me – would travel distances to eat it.
The restaurant section featured a mural of Italian figures sitting, relaxing, playing guitar. Above them was a hand-painted list of the 101 different sauces you could order with your pasta.
Tragic circumstances closed the restaurant for several years, then BRAVO reopened ‘around the corner’ in 2013 in a newly fitted out space, offering an upmarket menu, and a new lease on life – ‘Bravo!’
Today is Saturday and the restaurant is full of diners eating lunch, but I only have to wait a few minutes. I take a seat and check the blackboard, scrolling past Risotto Calamari with peas and ricotta ($24.90), and Beef Ribs w cauliflower puree and cavolo nero ($34.90).
I spy Spaghetti Bolognese ($19.90) on the printed menu and order it, while my dining companion orders the risotto.
Also on the blackboard menu is BRAVO’s special dish, Spaghetti Amatriciana Guanciali ($24.90). My waitress explains that BRAVO is donating a percentage of the meal price to aid victims of the recent earthquake in Amatrice, Italy. Bravo! BRAVO.
I plunge my fork into my friend’s risotto for a taste, and it’s good. Now to focus on my spaghetti!
I pick up my fork and spoon – I’m a twirler. But first I tease the spaghetti, to distribute the Bolognese sauce through it.
The waitress places a small bottle of Parmesan cheese powder on the table, and I ask if they have any fresh Parmesan to grate over my plate. They don’t have it, I’m told. I’m a little stunned that any Italian restaurant would not have fresh Parmesan cheese on the premises, and I suddenly feel like I’ve been transported back to the 1970s. I can almost understand why a restaurant might prefer not to offer expensive cheese with a cheaper basic meal… Wait a minute, no I can’t! But to not have any in the restaurant AT ALL?
The spaghetti is al dente as you’d expect, or how I would describe it – springy, with an enjoyable bite and just how I like it. However the sauce disappeared into the nest of pasta almost immediately.
The amount of pasta is generous, but my eyes are asking for more sauce, or more ragu. There’s no evidence of carrot or celery in this sauce but it does have flavour. Are there onions? I can’t tell.
It’s a filling meal but I’m left wanting more …. sauce. Several gratings of fresh cheese would have lifted this dish to another level … of both taste, and passion.
So my first experience of Spaghetti Bolognese is a little disappointing.
Dessert however is a different story – ‘delizioso’!
The Sicilian Cannoli ($5.70 each piece) with pistachio nuts is rocking my taste buds. My cannolo is filled with a lemon-scented custard that is light, delicious, and not too sweet. A single piece of cannoli is called cannolo which means, ‘little tube’.
As a side note: my companion rated his Risotto Calamari 3.5 out of 5.
‘Grazie per il pasto.’
What will I discover next week?
RATED: Fresh Parmesan cheese please! FOOD: 3/5
VALUE: 4/5 ATMOS: 3.5/5 VIBE: Always friendly and consistent
BRAVO TRATTORIA – 59 Willoughby Rd, Crows Nest NSW