I used to love buffets. The thought of being able to eat as much as you want was like heaven for me and invariably, it would result in us paying loads of money, stuffing our faces to ensure we get value for money (don’t even think about wasting stomach space on bread!), and then feeling ill for the rest of the night.
Now, I’m much more inclined to spend my money on smaller portions of better quality food, at a place that focuses on one type of food and does it well, rather than going somewhere where I can eat huge quantities but not so great food. Well, it turns out these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At Pizza Autentico, a mere $20 gets you all you can eat, high-quality pizza and pasta made fresh by Italian chefs for 90 minutes straight.
The unlimited pizza and pasta menu has over 10 pizzas and 5 pastas to choose from, which waiters bring out straight from the kitchen. The pizzas and pastas are served to each diner so you get the opportunity to taste a little bit of everything.
Before we get started on the pizzas and pastas though, a small board of olives, olive tapenade, olive oil and house made bread is brought out to whet the appetite. All the fresh ingredients used at Pizza Autentico are sourced from Salt Meats Cheese in Alexandria, so you know it’s going to be good!
It doesn’t take long for the pizzas to start flowing. Each pizza is brought around and you’re asked if you want a slice. Um… yes please! The first one we try is the n’duja pizza, a napoli sauce base with spicy Italian pork sausage and mozzarella.
I’m always drawn to places that do one thing, and do it very well. To me, it means that all focus and dedication is placed onto one type of food and mastering it, making it the best it possibly can.
There’s no prizes for guessing what Pasta Emilia’s main strength is. The pasta here is made onsite and with organic ingredients, using recipes from the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy which is famous for its pasta. Pasta Emilia makes several types, including fettuccine, strozzapreti and filled pastas like ravioli and tortelli. While these are all available for purchase in convenient take home packs and sauces, we decided to eat in at the rustic, cottage-like cafe in Surry Hills for dinner one night.
We’re here for the pasta so we skip the entrees and dive straight in. The house made strozzapreti is a short pasta that kind of reminds me of DNA strands with its rolled and twisted structure. Strozzapreti literally means “priest stranglers” and legend has it that the name comes from the fact that priests enjoyed the pasta so much, they ate it too quickly and choked themselves! Whether that’s true or not, make sure you savour every mouthful of this strozzapreti that’s mixed with a rich beef ragu topped with a sprinkling of parmesan.
If you’re a cheese lover and you haven’t tried burrata yet, you are seriously missing out. Inside this plump, knotted ball of cheese is cream and soft mozzarella that oozes out once it is cut into. It is rich, creamy and oh so delicious! The promise of burrata and wood-fired oven pizza is what drew us to Puntino Trattoria, which is hidden away on the Woolloomooloo side of Crown Street.
We’re being treated tonight with a multitude of cheeses and treats from the wood-fired oven, starting with the smoked provolone that is baked in the wood-fired oven with shaved black truffle. The truffle aroma hits as soon as it lands on the table, and we use the tongs to take a piece of the melty, stretchy cheese and eat it with the accompanying bread.
Other entrees that we sample also include the calzone ai formaggi – a wood-fired pizza folded over with mozzarella, parmesan and garlic – and a simple but delicious flash friend calamari with lemon and garlic. The calamari pieces are especially good as they are slightly tangy from the lemon and very tender.
Hidden away in a corner of the top level of the Strand Arcade is Pendolino. Its dark, moody and relaxed atmosphere is a far cry from the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the city, and is the perfect place to hide out and feast on some delicious Italian food.
When I spot burrata on the menu I’m sold. It’s a pretty dish, with the Puglian Burrata as the centre of attention, surrounded by an heirloom tomato salad with basil, red onion and parsley. The tomatoes help to cut through the rich and creamy burrata and the addition of breadcrumbs also adds a crunchy texture to the dish.
No prizes for guessing where we are tonight! After a 45-minute wait in the queue, plus another 90-minute wait after placing our names on the waitlist at the counter, we are finally led to our table at Jamie’s Italian. We also happen to spot some familiar faces during the wait (oh hai!). Big thanks to FFichiban for letting us share his table =D love you long time!
While our table is being readied for us, we watch as one of the chefs stand behind a glass divider making fresh pasta – ricotta-filled ravioli in this case – as a tantalising taste of what is to come. Each raviolo is carefully placed in a wooden box before being dusted with flour and set aside.
We are taken past the bar area, where bellinis and other cocktails are being made by cheerful bar staff, and settle down into our table. There’s a little touch of Jamie everywhere, from the message on the back of the menu, to the branded tea towels that are used as napkins in the restaurants, to the British accents of the waitstaff. We are handed some large A3 sized menus, with the menu divided up into nibbles, antipasti, pasta, mains, sides and desserts. Wanting to try as much as possible, we have a hard time trying to decide what to get, and somehow end up with 6 pastas and risottos to share between the four of us. Bring on the carbs!