I've been so busy dining, it's been hard to keep up with writing about all the restaurants I visit. One that really deserves a mention is actually located just down the road from my house. It's called Carpaccio and one of the best things about it for right now is that there are quite a lot of al fresco tables with sufficient protection from the elements (and noise) of Norton Street. There are even smoking al fresco tables, set around a corner from the non-smoking ones - well designed to please the diners from both camps!
This is the interior, which includes a bar and lounge area, plus around to the left is another indoor dining room. There's a cocktail list which includes drinks like a Vanilla Lychee Caiprioska ($14.50) pictured at the front of my photo, and a Expresso Martini ($14.50) pictured at the rear of my photo. Their cocktails are made on Grey Goose Vodka which is certainly a quality spirit.
I’m still simpering over an exceptional Strawberry Martini ($12), the creation of handsome Bar Manager Albertz Grippa. His magic ingredient, besides lovely strawberry gelato, gin, peach schnapps and mint, was balsamic vinegar.
The cuisine is contemporary Italian. The owner Giovanni Panetta is a congenial host; the service is outstanding; and over multiple visits I’ve eaten antipasti, primi, secondi, insalate, pizza and dolci - I’m yet to see a failure. I first dined here about eighteen months ago, and the waiter remembered me from this meal, including what I had eaten - fairly impressive I thought.
The namesake dish of the restaurant, carpaccio is well represented on the menu, with a number of different selections. I tried (and I would recommend it if you like big flavours) the Aged Beef Carpaccio ($18) with warm blue cheese and caper sauce. If I had any critique, I would say that for me, there was a tad too much sauce, but I did enjoy the flavour of it.
Fluffy, gentle Whitebait and Pumpkin Fritters ($18) on a radicchio, caper and orange salad impressed - try them if you have never really got into whitebait. They really showed it off well, without being too much on the fishy side of things.
The best of the current menu is the Ravioli of Roast Duck and Mushroom ($24/$29) served in a rich broth of pancetta, wild mushroom and broad bean – savour the broth by skipping parmesan cheese in favour of good house-made bread. The bread sits somewhere between France and Italy in its construction, good for those like me who find the lack of soft white filling a bit disappointing in Italian breads.
For mains, a Roasted Duck Breast ($30) came with an excellent house-made pork and pistachio sausage and blood orange jus (though the accompanying cavalo nero packed a seriously hefty garlic punch that had even two garlic fans wincing). We later reproduced the blood orange sauce at home (see my post HERE), and came up with an equally pleasing result - blood orange really sings with duck.
The Seafood Chowder ($30) was brimming with perfectly cooked seafood - with the exception of the mussels (which were overcooked). This is a huge bowl of joy, including a whole Balmain Bug (in halves), prawns, scallops, half a crab, fish, mussels and more. I loved the potato in the broth, but hated the whole cherry tomatoes that I found buried within.
To me Carpaccio is a perfect choice of venue to dine in, particularly as the weather warms up. What could be more pleasant than a Strawberry Martini, lovely food and a table in the fresh air? Perhaps only their Wednesday Mud-Crab and Mussels Night ($69/head) where you and a mate share in a kilo of mussels, and 1.2 kilos of crab with tea or coffee also provided - bookings for this night are essential.
Shop 8, 39-45 Norton St, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9550 9365