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Monday, November 01, 2010

Aperitivo, Leichhardt

Oh how Leichhardt has changed. No longer dominated by family-run Italian bistros, you'll now find a happy mix of Thai, Japanese and Chinese restaurants offering alternatives to pizza, pasta and gelato.

Leichhardt still maintains its Italian roots, although newer restaurants look a little more upscale these days. Aperitivo is a rather flashy wine bar and restaurant addition to the strip, opening about 16 months ago on the sight of the former Pavarotti's on Norton.

Aperitivo are pre-dinner drinks and snacks, usually small plates designed to whet the appetite in preparation for the evening meal. We find a comprehensive menu of 23 dishes, 12 pizzas and eight specials, most of which are matched with wines that are available by the taste (75ml), glass (150ml) or carafe (375ml). Diners can choose to eat small, or order several dishes to create a multi-course meal.

Tonno herb crust yellow fin tuna $19.50
served with watermelon and baby cress salad with wasabi dressing
Matched with 2008 Anselmi San Vincenzo (Veneto) $6/$10/$22.50

We're greeted with a complimentary basket of house-made ciabatta bread that is warm and fluffy, served with Kailis organic extra virgin olive oil.

Tonno is the first dish to arrive from our order, and we're quickly won over by the thin slices of just-seared yellow fin tuna. A zingy wasabi dressing echoes the pepperiness of baby watercress, and we relish the triangles of ruby red watermelon that are juicy and sweet.

Spiedini di rosmarino $19.50
Rosemary skewers of scallops, prawns and crostini
served with homemade squid ink tagliatelle in lobster bisque
Matched with 2008 Castellari Bergaglio Gavi 'Fornaci' (Piemonte) $6/$11/$25

Spiedini di rosmarino is a picturesque dish of prawn, scallop and buttered bread cubes skewered on rosemary stalks and grilled until golden. The squid ink tagliatelle is more colour than flavour, but it has a pleasing al dente texture, and the lobster bisque sauce is rich and flavoursome.

Woodfire oven

A 400C woodfire oven cooks the pizzas in less than two minutes here, a method known as the traditional Neapolitan style. We order the margherita bufala, a simple tomato base topped with cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and Fior Di Latte buffalo mozzarella imported from Campania, Italy.

Margherita bufala $24
Pizza with tomato, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato and basil

We've been warned that this is a "wet pizza" and the waiter isn't joking. We end up dragging our slices onto our plates as the topping threatens to slide off. The milky cheese counterbalances the salty acidity of tomato, and we revel in the light and fluffy pizza base which is aerated like a round of fresh Lebanese bread.

Homemade duck ravioli $26
served with truffle butter and wild Italian mushrooms
Matched with NV Farnese Edizione Abruzzo $9/$15/$34

Homemade duck ravioli is disappointing, the filling rather stodgy and indiscernible of duck. The tumble of sauteed mushrooms is much more interesting although I find the truffle butter a little overwhelming.

The Farnese Edizione is smoky and sweet, an Italian version of zinfandel that uses the a blend of five grape varietals that includes Montepulciano, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Negromaro and Red Malvasia. We detect a smoky undertone which we're told comes from the Primitivo, thought to be genetically linked to the Italian zinfandel grape. [edited 2/11/10]

Carne di cervo $22
Venison fillet served with blueberry and chocolate sauce and saute potatoes
Matched with 2007 Viviani Valpolicella Classico Veneto $6/$10/$22.50

Chocolate sauce with blueberry and venison fillet seemed too intriguing to resist. The venison is tender but I find the chocolate sauce a little on the sweet side, more like a dessert sauce than the bitter dark cocoa I'd been expecting.

Vanilla brulee stack $17.50
served with hazelnut jelly and chocolate Persian fairy floss

Desserts are on the pricey side here, averaging at $17. The vanilla brulee stack is described as a tower of brulee squares between wafer biscuits, but its firmness reminds me more of a vanilla pannacotta. Hazelnut jelly tastes slightly odd, wobbly and bitter, but we enjoy the chocolate Persian fairy floss, even if it does look like a toupee perched on top.

Pear and frangipane tart $17.50
with white chocolate gorgonzola mousse and papaya coulis

Pear and frangipane tart seems to combine a number of disparate elements, including a thick paste of papaya coulis hemmed in a triangle of chocolate, and the ubiquitous fanned strawberry and mint leaf dusted with icing sugar. I'm a little disconcerted by the soft and undercooked middle of the frangipane tart, but the waiter assures me its meant to be served this way. I do love the white chocolate gorgonzola mousse, the bite of blue cheese muted by the sweetness of white chocolate.

Italian thick hot chocolate $5

We accompany our desserts with drinks, including an Italian thick hot chocolate that is decadently foamed and not overly sweet.

Affogato with frangelico $12

Affogato with frangelico is good enough to stand alone as a dessert, a scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream baptised with a shot glass of bitter espresso and the nutty hit of frangelico hazelnut liquer. It's simple bliss.

Grab Your Fork and guest dined as a guest of Apertivo, Leichhardt.

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Aperitivo Wine Bar & Restaurant
163 Norton Street, Leichhardt, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9564 0003

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 5pm-12midnight
Sunday 5pm-10pm

Congratulations to Ladybird who has won a copy of the India Cookbook.

Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the competitions still open:

(entries close Sunday 7 November 2010)

> Win a Mexican/Spanish spice kit worth $50
(entries close Tuesday 16 November 2010)

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(entries close Monday 22 November 2010)
16 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 11/01/2010 03:22:00 am


  • At 11/01/2010 8:23 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Oh my that vanilla brulee stack is tempting me

  • At 11/01/2010 8:31 am, Blogger Mel said…

    all of them look amazing! the pizza is calling out for me..

  • At 11/01/2010 9:42 am, Anonymous Jonathon James Clarke said…

    Loved the honesty and purity of these dishes, especially the rosemary skewers, which I shall be replicating in short order! Many thanks! :)

  • At 11/01/2010 9:53 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm usually happy with an affogato for dessert, but I don't think I'd be able to pass up a white chocolate gorgonzola mousse. That sounds amazing!

  • At 11/01/2010 10:17 am, Blogger Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said…

    We've been visiting Apertivo for a while now and really found it to be a refreshing addition to Norton St.

    I am addicted to their Calzone topped with proscuitto but I do agree that the desserts and small plates are on the pricey side.

    Shame you were disappointed with the duck pasta but my goodness I would love to attack that vanilla brulee stack.

  • At 11/01/2010 10:29 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I've never heard of a 'wet pizza' before - how odd (though I have had entire toppings slide off into my lap). I LOVE any dessert with Fairy Floss...mmmm.

  • At 11/01/2010 10:29 am, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    The duck ravioli looks delicious. Oh and that affogato. I always order this when I am at a nice Italian restaurant. Makes me wish I had an Italian Mama.

  • At 11/01/2010 10:35 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm wet... hee fairy floss toupee

  • At 11/01/2010 10:40 am, Blogger Laura said…

    Pretty sure i'm due for a pizza.

    might have to head here, yumo

  • At 11/01/2010 12:20 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    That vanilla brulee stack looks nommy. And that fairy floss toupee! The world is a better place thanks to fairy floss. The duck pasta sounds delish - pity it didn't meet your expectations!

  • At 11/01/2010 3:40 pm, Blogger Lizzi said…

    I want all of this in my belly NOWWWW.

  • At 11/01/2010 8:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Zinfandel is a grape variety so a comment that a blend of 5 grape varieties is an Italian version of zinfandel is inaccurate (not to mention strange). Your food comments are generally great but if you want to comment on wine, I suggest you do a wine course or do some checking.

  • At 11/01/2010 10:23 pm, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Shame about the ravioli - on appearances, they would be my pick...

  • At 11/02/2010 9:46 pm, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    If I had seen duck ravioli I would have pounced at it. What a shame it wasn't as good as it could of been

  • At 11/03/2010 3:36 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - Thanks for picking up on this. I've amended my post above - you are right, zinfandel is a grape varietal which our waiter linked to the primitivo in the blend. This was unclear due to an editing error on my part. It has been duly clarified. Thanks for letting me know.

  • At 11/04/2010 1:31 am, Anonymous Peruk said…

    The duck ravioli looks delicious. Oh and that affogato.


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