La Casa Ristorante, Russell Lea

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Wood fired oven

Full Disclosure Dear Reader: the owners of La Casa are lovely people and I count them as friends of mine. Writing about friend's businesses is always delicate as they are friends of course but as you want to support a friend you want to come along, pay for your share and help contribute to their business. So when Buxom Wench suggested a dinner with her family and Mr NQN and I at La Casa I jumped at it.  I had eaten enough free pizza at their opening to start up a food tab so it felt right that we come and pay for our meal and also see what this new Italian family style restaurant was all about.

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Business has been roaring since they opened a few months ago. They're booked out every night apparently which means that Carm and her brother Tony are now truly married to the business. It's a family business with Carm and Tony, Carm's husband, their sister and father working there-her father refuses to let her hire a cleaner so he does the cleaning!

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Buxom Wench and her husband Silver Fox and her two sons The Clones have visited here before and I had heard amazing things about the ribs. Granted ribs aren't a typical Sicilian dish but Carm says that she wanted to do something different. The rest of the menu is split into starters, pasta, meat mains, grill items, pizzas and sides and salads.

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Garlic pizza $9

While we're deciding (and it is a task as we're torn and I'm starving), we nibble on a hot fresh, garlic pizza-nice and light and a good start!

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Meatballs: Polpette della Mamma $14

The famous meatballs are really begging to be tried. The menu reads "Our Mamma's original style meatballs" and Carm explains that originally they were just using her recipe but she just wasn't happy with them so now as a result she comes in and makes them herself every second day. The meatballs are soft and purely comforting with a nice thick but not overly strong tomato sauce and a wedge of wood fired white bread.

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Papardelle with pancetta, swiss brown mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce $19

Clone 1 had particularly enjoyed this pasta. Even this pasta had lactose intolerant Buxom Wench popping her Lactaid tablets so that she could enjoy her moments of bliss with this creamy white wine and garlic pasta. The pieces of pancetta are juicy with just the right amount of fat, the slices of swiss brown and hand made papardelle which as Clone 1 had pointed out actually looks and tastes hand made are comforting. I abandon the diet ship and go for third servings.

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Don Ciccio pizza $18

Silver Fox and I were in agreement with what we like on pizzas. We both like salamis and pepperonis  and so the Don Ciccio pizza was ordered. It has a topping of tomato, mozzarella, hot Sicilian salami, capsicum and olives. The pizzas here are made Napolitan style with a thin crust, soft centre and thick edge.

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Napoletana pizza $17

This is Clone 2's entree all to himself as he liked it so much the last time he came here. It has a tomato, mozzarella, anchovy, olive and oregano topping.

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Rabbit: Coniglio in Agrodolce $23

The rabbit is slow cooked pieces on the bone in a tomato and balsamic sauce with pine nuts, capers, raisins and sage. It was a dish we enjoyed at the opening and if anyone doesn't like rabbit this is a great introduction dish as the sauce counteracts any gamey flavour that some people don't like about rabbit.

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400gm Rib Eye Riverina grass fed Marble score 2+ $35

Is it wrong to want to order a steak just to try the sauce that goes with it? Carm had gone through the menu with us and let us know what was particularly Sicilian. The Salmoriglio sauce which is made up of extra virgin olive oil, lemon, parsley, oregano and garlic is a typical condiment that Sicilians serve with their steak. We also ask to try the Chianti wine jus. The steak is juicy and tender without a scratch of gristle (and I love grass fed beef for the flavour but find that sometimes it has gristle) but the magic really happens with the Salmoriglio sauce which bursts with flavour and freshness. I can see that cream sauces might overwhelm a steak like this and I almost want to carry a flask of this with me to take for my next steak. It is served with a wilted mound of cima de rapa (otherwise known as broccoli rabe or raab) which is a mild tasting green with a soft texture once cooked and mashed potato. Carm's father sometimes provides the supply of cima de rapa from his backyard.

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Full rack of pork ribs cooked in La Casa's sauce served with chunky fries $34

Again, I know ribs aren't a typical Sicilian thing but I have a bit of a thing for them you see. And when Carm tells me that the head chef worked at Daniel's Steakhouse all of the pieces of the meat puzzle fall into place and you understand why the meat is so, so good. And it's worth noting that you can also buy a half serve of ribs but as it's $28 you may as well order the whole lot and take some home with you. I usually test all ribs against the ones from South. These are very similar, with a touch less sauce and they are softly gorgeous and rich and brushed in a home made barbecue sauce. Divine.

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And because Buxom Wench is so clever she has brought out a measuring tape and measured them at 12 inches by 6 inches full of rib goodness. When Harry Met Sally noises are emanating from our mouths but we don't care. We stop Smiley Carm's husband and ask for the secret of these ribs. It's a triple cooking process: steam oven, oven and then charcoal! Damn, I probably won't make these at home so it looks like I'll just have to come here for my rib fix...

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Beef short ribs cooked in La Casa sauce served with chunky fries $32

There's a moment of panic as we enjoy our pork ribs and realise that to our utter horror, that we only have a few ribs left so an order of the beef short ribs are ordered post haste. We thought that this might be the same sauce as what was on the pork ribs as they were both called "La Casa sauce" but when this is set down our eyes widen it is apparent that these are different.

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_Oh yeah baby...

_

It's an enormous serve and could easily feed two. I cut it apart and it looks...well like pure food porn such is the way that it falls apart so readily. "That's Food Penthouse" Silver Fox says.  The ribs are coated in a very rich tomato sauce cooked down with herbs and the meat is rich and gelatinous in texture and...rib sticking as they're incredibly rich.

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Orange and Fennel salad $8

This salad was refreshing and a good partner to the richness of the dishes. Called 'Nsalata Portualla, portualla is how they say orange in Sicily and at home Carm eats this salad with chilli in it.

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Cannoli Siciliani $8

I made a decision while eating the ribs. I would give up my dessert stomach space for the ribs so I didn't get to try these. But the two Clones did and they gave these the thumbs up.

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Tre Gelati $8

We finish off with a trio of gelato in hazelnut, vanilla and chocolate. I tried small tastes of this with my favourite being the hazelnut and chocolate. The gelato is from Carm's Sicilian friend Alfred from Pure Gelato.

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Lemon Sorbet $8

There is also a Nutella pizza if you want to give a sweet pizza a whirl. I had no stomach space for it sadly!

Full disclosure Dear Reader, I absolutely loved this meal.

And I have something rather exciting to share! Delicious magazine (yes the Delicious magazine), named Not Quite Nigella one of the top 10 blog and websites in their Top 100 list! I am delighted to be amongst such esteemed company-the other Australian blog being Matthew Evans's SBS Food Blog. Can you tell how excited I am? Squeeaaal! And this is also appropriate as La Casa also got a mention in the magazine too as an exciting new restaurant opening with a specific points for the ribs.

So tell me Dear Reader, what magazine or newspaper have you always wanted to be in or have you been in?

La Casa Ristorante, Russell Lea

Delicious magazine (click to enlarge)

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La Casa Ristorante

This restaurant has now closed

271 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, NSW (between Five Dock & Drummoyne)

Tel: +61 (02) 9712 3882

Open Tuesday–Sunday, from 5pm

BYO and Licensed

http://www.lacasaristorante.com.au/