Canterbury Leagues Club is in the process of a $100 million dollar renovation that will add more parking and a six-star hotel, as well as refurbish the existing amenities. As additional dining options come online, they’ve also switched out Flame Pizza + Grill for Lavico Italian Ristorante, a please-all Italian eatery.
On a recent visit, I asked Pizza Chef Maurizio Bruno the reason behind the change. “Food costs,” he volunteered without hesitation. Club cooking is predicated on delivering at a price point within really narrow food cost parameters, and, as Bruno explained, at Flame Pizza + Grill they were throwing away food. I’m all for reducing food waste and keeping prices affordable across a wide range of diners.
Set along the front edge of the Club, this restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining options With hoarding still in place for the extensive car park and hotel renovation, we opted to dine inside under the leafy green arbour of plastic plants. Tables are well spaced and there’s live music - a singer doing cuisine-appropriate Italian songs, as well as jazzy interpretations of the standards. Her excellent microphone technique makes her an aural pleasure as we settle in with well-priced wines, including the McPherson Aimee’s Garden Moscato ($7.10/glass).
While the wine is a bit sweet for me, it improves with food, particularly the house-made chilli oil, which you should request to accompany your pizza. Bruno, who has worked at Canterbury League Club for the last two years, recommended pizza (obviously), citing the simpler Italian combinations with fewer ingredients as his favourites. So we hit up Napolitana ($20) with anchovies, olives and oregano, on a tomato base.
Living in Sydney’s best-known Italian enclave, Leichhardt, I’ve become a stickler for pizza bases where the dough is proofed over a longer time period, so I wasn’t crash-hot on these cold-water dough bases made fresh each morning, but I did enjoy the topping, particularly with chilli oil. Birra Moretti ($7) will put out any resulting mouth-fires.
We stayed simple with our pasta too, with Penne Arrabbiata ($16.70). The serve was generous, but as a staunch al dente fan, the penne was slightly overcooked for me, but definitely within the acceptable range for non-Italian diners. Flavours in sauce were very good, and the olives, in particular, were excellent.
The Barbeque Seafood Plate ($50) was where the Lavico kitchen really shone. It presented a generous array of seafood from crisp-skinned barramundi to fat and creamy king prawns drizzled with garlic and lemon. The fish is moist, avoiding the usual floury or dry traps you can find with barramundi. The seafood is accompanied by decent chips and a side salad.
Presented in its prehistoric-looking shell, each half of the Moreton Bay bug pulls out of the shell in one piece, revealing sweet, creamy white flesh. The baby octopus tendrils and calamari rings are the platter's absolute standouts - both are tender and delicious. Even at the price, this feels like a generous plate of food that lends itself toward sharing.
There’s a lot to like about this new kid-friendly, parent-friendly, please-all Italian, so I have no doubt that it will be popular with Canterbury Leagues Club members. Members also receive a discount on the prices I've quoted here as an out-of-area visitor.
Lavico Italian Ristorante
Canterbury Leagues Club
28 Bridge Road, Belmore
Ph: (02) 9704 7777