Walking into Osvaldo Polletti, I was charmed almost instantly. The menu is tight, confident, focused and minimal. The space is similarly precise, clean and functional.
Segue to the end of the meal, we try to order a dessert of Apples Soaked in Red Wine ($11), owner Franco Napoliello laughs, warning “it’s just apples in red wine”; then expounding “it’s just something I was doing at home.” That’s the motif of the whole menu; a surprisingly complex journey into the simplicity of home cooking - if you grew up in Southern Italy, that is.
Antipasto Misti ($17/person) is the way to begin. I was tempted by the stuffed crumbed olives.Foccacia bread (house-made daily) reminds me of why we got excited by it in the first place, all those years ago.
I was romanced by the pea frittata - it's nice to get the kind of dish you'd never order as a whole entree in amongst the antipasti. Vegetarian diners will adore the fat, cheesy Romane ($14.50) or baked semolina gnocchi. It was like an Italian answer to the French twice baked cheese souffle.
It goes very well in tandem with the beguiling Finocchio ($14) salad of fennel, Fuji apple and walnut. I liked this simple little salad so much, we made it at home last night.
I was completely besotted by the time I’d finished the plump, beautifully cooked mussels.
The Carpaccio ($16) of yellowfin tuna, crispy capers and salmoriglio was lovely, but surpassed by the mussels for me. Salmoriglio is a pungent Italian sauce made from olive oil, lemon, garlic and oregano.
Simple cooking combined with the best produce affordable makes the wagyu mince sing in fat Cannelloni Al Forno ($17/$23).
The pork sausage at the centre of a truly wicked Falsomagro ($27) of rolled veal with provolone and mortadella, is similarly spectacular.
Biscotti ($6) are also redeemed - moist and delightful. The mostly Italian wine list has entertaining, pertinent notes - our 2007 Feudo Arancio Inzolia ($36) was “fragrant, soft, harmonious and elegant” to the last drop. For dessert, the 2006 Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria 500ml ($7/glass, $40/bottle) was also lovely and not overly sweet. It was a late harvest which is more the Italian way rather than a Botrytis effected sweet wine as we tend toward in Australia.
Share dishes so you can sample widely and book today - I can't wait to return myself.
148 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Ph: (02) 9560 4525