03 April 2012

La Casa Ristorante: Sicilian, Russell Lea (31 Mar 2012)

271 Lyons Road, Russell Lea NSW 2046

Sicilian hospitality with a smile

Thanks to Angie for organising a catch up dinner at La Casa Ristorante with Richard and Bel. Upon arrival I was greeted by Carmel Ruggeri who I'd previously met at a Media 140 event. She'd prewarned me on twitter 'I save my cement mix for the special people who comment on my aioli' after I commented on the 'interesting' aioli presentation I saw on the Jenius review. Thankfully we didn't order the calamari this time as I wasn't up for a swim. The Our Mamma’s original style meatballs ($15) was recommended as a house speciality and indeed they had good flavour and were moist as hoped. Mamma sure knows how to make a good meatball. It was served with wood fired bread which was fresh and soft although I was somehow expecting it to be a bit more crusty. We also shared a simple Bufala pizza ($20) of tomato, buffalo mozzarella & basil. The dough was particularly light and tasty being a 5 day dough making it also very digestible. The cheese wasn't as stringy as I was expecting and a few more basil leaves would have been appreciated to allow each slice to get one. Chilli oil was provided on the side for extra flavour kick. Next time I'd love to try their Garlic pizza ($9) which I spotted smelling so good from the kitchen.

For mains my Linguine with prawns, crab, diced tomatoes, garlic, oil & chilli ($23) unfortunately first arrived without the crab which Richard and I questioned about half way through our dishes. Carmel checked and confirmed the important ingredient was accidently missing and kindly prepared another one for us after she knuckle busted the chef for forgetting it — seriously, these guys are food bloggers we're serving, you can't stuff this sh*t up — I believe she possibly uttered to the chef, possibly not. Having the crab made the dish so much better along with the decent sized prawns. I like how the sauce wasn't too oily and I would have been happy with even more garlic and chilli in the dish for some extra depth of flavour. The Carnaroli rice with seaweed & grilled freshwater scampi ($25) had a decent sized scampi with the bonus of a prawn and mussel and the seaweed crunch and flavour worked well in the risotto. Both the Atlantic Salmon ($29) and Wagyu Beef Cheeks ($36) looked good and I believe were well-liked.

For dessert Carmel kindly gave us some Cannoli Siciliani ($11, compliments of the kitchen) to try which were home made filled with ricotta. They were pretty big in size and I was hoping for some candied fruit in the mix like I've had at Bacco Pasticceria but apparently the locals aren't so keen on that version which is a shame. The Tiramisu ($13) was served in a glass and I enjoyed the flavours and noticeable alcohol. I personally tend to prefer tiramisu when it's cut from a larger cake and presented on a plate for some reason — I'm weird, I know. The Affogato con liquore ($14) was served with hazelnut gelato from Pure Gelato and amaretto. Great to see a decent amount of gelato used and coffee was pretty smooth. It's a restaurant I look forward to returning to try other dishes on the menu. As a bonus treat Angie made Salted Caramel and Jaffa macarons for everyone plus Richard shared his homemade sourdough bread achievement — Le Très Bon.

PROS: Buzzing atmosphere, Family friendly service, Lots of seating including outdoors and upstairs, Prices seem reasonable for the quality and taste, Decent sized portions, Cosy decor, Plenty of street parking
CONS: Didn't order the garlic pizza, Bufala pizza could do with more basil leaves so each slice gets one, I wanted the candied fruit in the cannoli, No BYO
WORTH TRYING: Meatballs, Linguine with prawns & crab
NEXT TIME: Garlic pizza, Garlic prawns, Ribs, Crispy fried calamari if I dare

Aperol Sunrise: Aperol, Cointreau, Prosecco, Orange ($12) — no shortage of alcohol in this one to kick start the night

2009 Capital Wines ‘The Foreign Minister’ Sangiovese, ACT ($39)

Our Mamma’s original style meatballs served with wood fired bread ($15)

Bufala: Tomato, buffalo mozzarella & basil ($20)

Chilli oil for an extra kick

Garlic pizza ($9) — we didn't order but I'm definitely trying next time

Linguine with prawns, crab, diced tomatoes, garlic, oil & chilli ($23)

Carnaroli rice with seaweed & grilled freshwater scampi ($25)

Atlantic Salmon on a bed of parsnip puree & venere black rice ($29)

Wagyu Beef Cheeks slow cooked in red wine jus with spinach & potato puree ($36)

Cannoli Siciliani: Home made tube shaped shells filled with ricotta ($11, compliments of the kitchen)

Tiramisu: Layers of savoiardi buscuits soaked in coffee, layered in mascarpone ($13)

Affogato con liquore: Affogato with hazelnut gelato, liquor & espresso coffee ($14)

Limoncello hospitality drink

Tony & Carmel Ruggeri

Chef Paulo

Pizza chefs working the wood-fired oven

Angie's macarons — Salted Caramel and Jaffa

Richard Elliot's homemade sourdough sample


Bar area

La Casa car

Interesting rustic wash basin although I reckon a shelf for the toilet rolls might be a worthy addition perhaps

Table supports not too bad for foot room but could still be better position for my preference


SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said...

Those meatballs look amazing... and any place that serves chili oil on the side is ok by me!

Richard Elliot said...

I really enjoyed our dinner at La Casa.

The meatballs were a definitely highlight. So soft and great bite from the pecorino. I enjoyed the pizza too, but we perhaps should have eaten it a bit more quickly to enjoy a crispy base.

The linguine was definitely a lot better once it had been re-made with the crab.

I thought the servings were huge and it was good value for money. An excellent family restaurant.

food porn-er @ foodpornnation.com said...

LOL woops I can't believe they forgot the crab but it sure does look good that Linguine dish!

LMAO Simon, you took a pic of the toilet rolls!!

And hello to the pizza boy to the left! Ding dong!

joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

No cement mix? What a shame! LOL

The linguine looks delish.

OohLookBel said...

It was a fantastic meal. Loved the scampi risotto, linguine (with crab), the pizza, the hostess and the atmosphere. Great to see you, too, Simon.

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Highlight of the weekend I think :) Great food, great atmosphere and great dining company too!
Mmm such soft tender beef cheeks, I'd definately go back to eat my way through the menu.

sugarpuffi said...

wow cheap aperol sunrise! im there lol

Selina @ Suburbaneatz said...

Wow, that pizza takes me back to the best pizza I had in NYC- at Lombardi's!! Putting this place on my must try list.

Carmel Ruggeri said...

Hey Simon, thanks for your review,great pics,especially the toilet rolls ;)) My car looks HOT!!! Carm

Anonymous said...

Just read Fooderati's blog... Out of interest, did you eat as a guest of La Casa or did you pay?

FoodLover said...

Anonymous, This looks like one of the very rare restaurant visits where he may have actually 'paid' for something.

Simon Leong said...

hi sara, the chilli oil on the side is great for those wanting extra flavour. i have a friend that puts tabasco on everything!

hi richard, so glad we questioned the crab otherwise we would have had a totally different impression of the dish. it shows it always pays to ask when in doubt. i'm thinking of revisiting with my family if we get the chance.

hi food porn-er, i only take a photo of the toilet if I something to say about it you know :-) — hehe pizza boy, i'm sure he's blushing right now.

hi joey, there's always next time for cement mix. carmel must have been feeling kind that day ;-)

hi bel, good to see you again too. it's been too long.

hi angie, I've already seen other dishes on the menu I'm wanting to try.

hi sugarpuffi, pretty reasonably priced considering it's pretty much all alcohol :-)

hi selina, i missed out on trying Lombardi in NYC — it was on my wish list but I ran out of time :-(

hi carmel, i do my best work in the toilet you know ;-) that is one hot car you have there

hi anonymous, we all paid for our meals except carmel provided the cannoli as mentioned because she wanted us to try it and in the end she comped the Linguine with prawns because they weren't correctly cooked to her liking but we were all happy with the meals and generously tipped anyway. richard and I would have been happy to pay for the linguine even though they weren't first right and carmel made us an extra one with the crab to share as we were too full to have a whole one each again. i'd be happy to return with my family to try more of the dishes — and pay for them of course. thanks for asking though.

hi foodlover, you'll always know if i've paid for a meal or not. I also list them here http://simonfoodfavourites.blogspot.com.au/p/reviews.html as reference for anyone wanting to check. it might not seem like it to you but I do actually pay for the majority of my meals although I'm sure you realise this anyway. for the 50 or so guest reviews of restaurants I've done there's 100s getting close to 1000 I've posted which are paid for and i've got a backlog of over 400 paid visits and counting yet to be posted.

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