The Cheapskate Date was sceptical, and I was still traumatised from eating at the Spaghetti House, so we tentatively poked our heads around the door of the Casa Italia Community Centre. Italians, lots of them, eating and drinking and generally making merry on a Friday night.
Fabulous. It has been a couple of months since I got to inflict my execrable Italian on anyone. ‘Buona sera. Un tavola per due?’. The entree to the Italian fest was momentarily halted when the lady at the front desk explained as it was a club I needed to live more than 50km away or be a member. I couldn’t really look her in the eye and claim to be an out of towner, so I joined at a very reasonable $5 for a two year membership.
The set up is simple, with about 20 tables in what is basically a function room. The menu has eight pastas to pick from, some ravioli and tortellini under ‘Angelo’s Specials’, four scallopine dishes and a large pizza menu. To start, the Date and I shared a Penne Siciliana ($16). The pasta sauce was a neapolitan sauce with added capers, anchovies, olives, garlic and chilli. It was full of huge flavours though with a big chilli hit, which I suspect might be a bit heavy handed for some tastes.
For main we shared the Saltimbocca ($22) – it was a cheapskate date – and an Italian salad ($6). The veal was thin, perfectly cooked and seasoned and the salad simple and authentic.
“The food is intoxicating,’ said the CD halfway through the veal. Something was intoxicating but more likely the Sicilian white wine we were drinking with Friday night gusto. Sitting at Casa Italia you fell like you are part of a large Italian family. A number of people wandered past our table to check we were having a good time and when we looked like we might leave, Angelo from the kitchen urged us to stay. ‘We kick nobody out. This is a club not a restaurant,’ he said.
Casa Italia serves simple, honest, well priced Italian food. The bar service is eccentric. None of the wines on the list were actually available, so procuring a wine is through an arcane process of negotiation which neither I nor the CD mastered. The club offers the sort of food and menu you can find in a thousand family owned trattorias across Italy. But that is what I like and find comforting. The sense it is a social club for local Italian families remains strong, but at the same time they are very welcoming of other people coming along and go out of their way to ensure you enjoy the food you are served.
26 Gray Street, New Farm
Tel 07 3358 4150
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights