There are moments in life when one’s long-held beliefs and prejudices are shown to be not as definitive or as dependable as you once had thought them to be. At times, this can be a source of frustration or embarrassment. However, there are times when it can also serve as a catalyst for positive insight. Take my view on Italian food, for example.
The prospect of dining at an Italian restaurant was not something I’d found all that interesting or exciting, and therefore something I rarely ever sought. Perhaps it had to do with preconceptions I have towards Italian restaurants in Leichhardt (the Little Italy of Sydney), in that they are as over-rated as they are over-priced; that it lacked value for money. Perhaps it was all the faux-Italian food I’ve been brought up on that’s coloured my view. Fast food and frozen pizza with a consistency similar to the box they arrived in. Countless homemade meals made with mass-produced pasta and ready-made sauces that have the depth and soul of a shallow grave.
Whatever the reasons, fair or otherwise, an invitation to The Original La Rustica II to celebrate a birthday had me re-evaluating these long held prejudices.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that there are some decent Italian restaurants in Sydney that serve good food at reasonable prices. With the exception of a good experience at La Casa (blog post) and a phenomenal one at the flash-in-the-pan that once was La Luce which passed on well before its time, everything else I’ve had to date has left me either disappointed or feeling like I could have made the same thing at home just as well for a fraction of the price.
So you could imagine that I wasn’t overly excited when The Godmother, my mother to another brother (as opposed to my actual Godmother), had decided to go to an Italian restaurant to celebrate her birthday. Yay, another disappointing experience…
The Original La Rustica II has the humble charm of a modest family-run business. The decor is clean and understated; the food is simple and traditional, devoid of any influence from the latest trends or fads; while the service is casual and relaxed.
I was in somewhat of a weird mood that evening, having no interest in taking many food photos or sampling other people’s dishes. Apologies in advance for the scarce amount of photos or descriptions below.
Calamari Fritti ($17.50) Lady JoKR & her daughter Little Miss Cheeky Monkey shared the fried calamari as a starter. LMCM seemed to enjoy this dish and worked her way through it faster than I would have expected for a child her age.
Pollo Avocado ($24.50) Fillets of chicken smothered with a creamy tomato sauce, with irregular chunks of avocado that live up to the restaurant’s name.
When asked, Agent||47 said the dish was nice; the kind of nice that would indicate that there wasn’t anything particular to complain about but nothing overly exciting about it either.
Linguine Boscaiola ($18.50) I was in a sort of mood that evening (as mentioned above) so I went with something that was relatively inexpensive and safe, not wanting to spend the extra dollars for something that, either way, would disappoint yet again.
Except that I wasn’t disappointed. The linguine boscaiola was good. Not the sort of good that would have you exclaim in netspeak acronyms; rushing to Twitter to wax lyrical over its virtues. It was the sort of good that made me forget about whether I could have made it equally as good at home or the relative cost-to-value ratio and just enjoy it in the moment for what it was. Namely, a well-executed bowl of pasta.
The linguine was al dente and loose throughout its consumption, never sticking or clumping as it cooled. The cream sauce was a flavourful hit of onion & bacon without being either too thin and soupy, or overly rich and gluggy; common problems I’ve experienced with a lot of boscaiola I’ve had in the past.
As it was The Godmother’s birthday, the restaurant was kind enough to give her an offer she could not refuse – some birthday tiramisu on the house, complete with sparklers.
The tiramisu was really nice as the sponge was moist without being overly saturated, while the mascarpone was light and creamy.
The Original La Rustica II has given me a renewed perspective regarding Italian restaurants. Perhaps all the average and disappointing experiences of the past, the criminally over-priced and substandard dishes, are not reflective of Italian restaurants today. Well, there will likely still be that element, but maybe that shouldn’t dissuade me from patronising restaurants that get that balance of quality and value right; ones that don’t leave you feeling that you would have been better off making it yourself at home.
If you have any recommendations for Italian restaurants in Sydney that you feel are good value for money, please feel free to let me know with comment below. Any suggestions on this matter would be appreciated :)
The Original La Rustica II
103 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
(02) 9799 5500
Tues-Sun: 12pm – 3pm; 6pm – 10pm