"Eating at North Bondi Italian Food is like eating with an Italian grandma," Pig Flyin muses thoughtfully, after dinner.
I nod and counter "Except this nonna happens to have a beachfront apartment with a huge circle of friends who are hip, cool, young and pretty."
Pig Flyin laughs. "Agreed."
Postcard mural decorated by dining patrons
Tucked away at the northern end of Bondi Beach, North Bondi Italian Food is three parts chic to two parts style. With its "no bookings" policy noted, we deliberately arrive at 6.15pm on a Saturday night to try to avoid the queues.
We still have to wait for about 15 minutes to secure a table, and end up ordering drinks at the bar and nibbling on the complimentary peanuts in the interim.
Peanuts at the bar
The dining room
We're greeted by a dining room that clangs with enthusiastic conversation and ripples of laughter. The open balcony affords a view of a twinkling cityscape and the distant sound of waves breaking. The crowd bubbles with sun-kissed youth, a celebration of skin that huddles beneath white pleated lampshades that, for some reason, remind me of skirts or petticoats.
Extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper shakers and cutlery
stored in the table recess
And yet the help-yourself cutlery at the table-- fat chunky steak knives with sturdy wooden handles--add a welcome sense of casualness. The extra virgin olive oil is for the complimentary basket of sourdough that arrives shortly.
Campari with blood orange juice
The mandatory drink seems to be anything containing Campari. An army of Campari bottles holding up the bar presumably helps send a few subliminal messages too. Its slightly bitter but countered by the blood orange juice, freshly squeezed by the attractive men and women behind the bar.
Campari with soda
We leave ourselves at the hand of Pig Flyin who orders a frenzy of food.
Fried calamari with mint and zucchini $28
We haven't waited very long when a surprise dish of fried calamari with mint and zucchini is sent to our table to apologise for the delay. It's probably only been about twenty minutes but we accept the dish with thanks, especially once we dig into the delicate soft curls of lightly battered calamari tossed through with julienned zucchini and sprigs of wilted mint.
Salumi guanciale $15
Cheek from 100% Black Berkshire pigs
And then our food. It arrives all at once, a logistical nightmare as we battle limited space on our table and a need to photograph all food before it gets eaten. My dining companions are like a well oiled machine - rotating dishes on demand and setting aside portions for me once the dishes get divvied.
Salumi culatello $16
Pork behind from 100% Black Berkshire pigs
The salumi are all produced by Robert Marchetti, beautiful slices of melt-in-the-mouth cured pork that are served on sheets of butchers paper printed with "salumi" at the top. It's a common theme we've already noticed: presentation is everything.
Cacciatore salumi $16
Made from 100% Black Berkshire pigs
Mozzarella burrata $20
An unspun Pugliese half cow's milk/cream cheese
with butter lettuce and cherry tomatoes
Mozzarella burrata is a dish of rustic simplicity, the Italian bistro theme reappearing in the red-checked napkin holding three fried dumplings of veal, pork and mortadella polpette, moist and meaty.
Veal, pork and mortadella fried balls with lemon and celery salad
Marinated raw sardines with parsley stalks and lemon $12
Marinated raw sardines have a wonderfully fresh flavour, especially with the lemon and parsley dressing.
Carpaccio pepper crusted ox fillet with salsa erbe and bruschetta $22
A wafer thin slice of pepper crusted ox fillet carpaccio is soft and tender.
Baccala fritto $19
Crispy fried salt cod balls with aioli and lemon
Baccala fritto are cheerful balls of salt cod, fried to a golden crisp. They're not overly salty and lifted by a dab of aioli and a generous squeeze of lemon.
Rigatoni with our own Berskhire pork sausages $27
sage, tomato, garlic sauce and chilli
Pricing isn't cheap here, especially with the pastas. The rigatoni with Berkshire pork sausages has a pleasing meld of flavours and perfectly al-dente pasta but the portion isn't particularly large especially at twenty-seven dollars.
Spaghetti in a paper bag
Spaghetti arrabbiata with crab $28
cooked in a paper bag
There's an element of theatre (and a childish flashback to Christmas) when opening the paper parcel containing spaghetti arrabbiata with crab. It's flecked with generous chunks of crab and the tomato sauce is sweet with a slight tingle of chilli.
Pork loin and fennel with tonnato sauce $29
Saturday roast of the night, served with a salad of slow cooked garlic,
eschallots, carrots and fresh watercress
Each night presents a different arrosto del giorno, or roast of the night. On Saturday nights it's roast pork loin, two thick slices of juicy pork shielded by an armour of crunchy crackling.
La Tagliata chargrilled Hereford/Angus rib eye $29
with rocket, green peppercorns, chilli and spring onions
The food continues. Admittedly our group of eight is living it up with the food, but we do notice that most other tables are barely eating, preferring to drink whilst they dawdle over a plate of nibbles.
In the meantime, we continue to eat. La Tagliata chargrilled Hereford/Angus rib eye is seared to a luscious medium rare. Lemon figures again, along with a tangle of rocket and spring onion slivers studded with green peppercorns and a touch of chilli.
Baked buckwheat polenta and gorgonzola sauce $24
Baked buckwheat polenta has comfort food written all over it. A disc of buttery polenta sits in a pool of golden gorgonzola sauce that's cheesy and gooey and grilled so there are patches of caramelised glee.
Zampone pigs trotter my Dad's style $28
filled with cotechino, celery and marjoram served with spinach
It's the offal that has the biggest font size on the printed placemat menus. We order all three offal options on the menu and I can barely contain my grin. The upper part of the pigs trotter has been stuffed with cotechino, a type of fresh sausage made with pork, pork skin and pork fat. I'm drawn to the hoof itself, relishing the gelatinous skin and taking inordinate joy in dismantling the tendon from the bones.
Trippa alla parmigiana $22
Braised tripe Parma style with cotechino, borlotti beans, tomato and peas
Trippa alla parmigiana is a joy to eat. It's thick, hearty and saucy, the rich sauce, green peas and generous shaving of parmesan confidently drowning out any misapprehensions toward tripe.
Parmesan crusted lamb brains $18
with spring onions and my version of an Italian inspired tartare sauce
My favourite dish of the evening is the parmesan-crusted lamb brains. A golden crunch of batter contrasts with the creamy sweet interior. The brains aren't overwhelmingly strong in flavour, the batter crisp and not too oily.
The unisex bathrooms mean you can never let your guard down, not even in the queue for the toilet. Thankfully each cubicle has its own mirror and wash basin. The black walls are specifically designed for graffiti, stubs of chalk thoughtfully provided by the sink - because no matter how glamorous you may think people are, deep down everyone is really just a big kid.
North Bondi Italian Food
118-120 Ramsgate Ave, North Bondi, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9300 4400
Wednesday to Sunday 12noon - 4pm
Monday to Tuesday 5pm - 10.30pm
Wednesday to Saturday 6.30pm - 10.30pm
Sunday 6.30pm - 10pm
No bookings accepted so arrive early to avoid a lengthy queue
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bondi - Hurricane's Grill
Bondi - Nick's Bondi Beach Pavilion
Bondi Junction - Kelly's Bar and Grill
Bondi Junction - Max Brenner
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9/22/2009 02:04:00 am