Plastic garlic braids, grape vines and shiny mandarins dangle from leafy green trellises. Oversized wine glasses filled with red liquid adorn the tables; and a black and white photo of New York takes up one whole wall.
Newtown newcomer, Planet Italy, has nearly all the hallmarks of one of that city’s red sauce restaurants, located in Little Italy in lower Manhattan. All that is missing here are Chianti bottle candleholders, and red and white-chequered tablecloths.
Appropriately, I’m soon tucking into a prawn-topped Chicken Parmigiana ($19.90), made in the popular Italian-American style, swimming in a lake of red sauce. It’s one option from a short menu arranged into traditional and gourmet pastas, and chicken or veal dishes.
By way of entrees, owner/chef Michael Michael trialled a self-service antipasto bar, but the all-you-can-eat enthusiasm of early diners means you now get your Antipasti and Salad Bar ($12.90) dished up for you.
The red sauce connection continues onto chalkboard specials, popping up in Barramundi in Smoked Salmon Creamy Sauce ($33). Tomato cream sauces are touch and go for me at the best of times, and smoked salmon doesn’t really do this version any favours. To my eye, the whole lumpy concoction takes away from what could be a nice fillet of fish.
Pork Belly with Roasted Fig and Red Wine ($33) is more successful, though my surprising meal highlight are fluffy Wedges ($8.90) served up healthily on an odd collection of raw vegetables.
As the new kid on a very competitive strip, just down the road from well-established players, like The Italian Bowl, pushing a similar shtick, Planet Italy is going to have its work cut out for it.
Where it might win favour with families is in the well-priced Mother’s Day menu, offering up three courses for just under thirty bucks each.
Note: This piece was also submitted, and appeared in an edited form in Issue 303 of Ciao Magazine.
229a King Street, Newtown
Ph: (0420) 784 164