Celia leans forward and gives me a cheeky grin, her eyes shining with delight, "When I booked I asked if they needed my contact number but Enrico said "But your husband wouldn't approve!". Enrico Viscontini is the chef and owner of Righetto Osteria Romana and he's making one of many trips out to the main restaurant wearing his trademark red shorts. He checks on every table, flirts and shakes hands and occasionally plays the trumpet if there happens to be a birthday.
We are at the proudly Roman restaurant on Haberfield's Ramsay Street with Celia, Pete and her boys. Righetto is the nickname for the name Enrico and an osteria is a family style restaurant. 73 year old chef Enrico starts his day every at 4am preparing Roman style food for customers at his restaurant.
There is a menu of course with plenty of pasta dishes on offer but the best course to take is to follow the waiter to take a peek at "Roman Canteen" aka the illuminated display of food and choose from there. Our waiter is helpful and suggests some things and although I want to order everything in the display we somehow end up with the absolutely perfect amount of food.
I've had a challenging day so it's a glass of red wine from Celia and Pete's cellar and a piece of bread dipped in olive oil with a dot of balsamic vinegar to start.
Once the analgesic properties of red wine have taken effect then chaos ensues. By chaos I mean an ordered chaos as everything that we ordered arrives at once and we scramble to make room for all of the plates on the table. Everything fits - just and we pass plates around.
Trippa Romana $18
I have a 50/50 relationship with tripe. I like it about 50% of the time, the other times I try it but then leave it. This tripe is firmly in the first category. It is buttery soft, almost gelatinous and marrow like in texture and flavoured with a delectable tomato and chilli sauce. It ends up being the favourite dish for many of us.
Potato cake $6
This is perhaps one of the worst photos on the blog I mean honestly look at the strange angle but I was trying to take pictures quickly. The potato cake is filled with thumb sized pieces of sausage which break up the creamy , comfortin mashed potato nicely.
Chicken in bacon
The chickens fillets come as a plate of three wrapped in bacon and with a mushroom sauce to them. They're bursting with flavour and tender inside and we use the bread provided to mop up the sauce.
Another favourite of mine is the porchetta, beautifully flavoured with herbs and strong in rosemary. It's sliced thinly and served warm and retains an excellent texture without ever getting dry. The prize pieces for me are the ones edges in tooth sticking crackling.
Gnocchi gorgonzola $18
The gnocchi is all made in house and the tender pieces arrive blanketed in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. I just need a pan of this, the tripe, porchetta and a bed and something to watch or read and you won't see me for a few hours.
Rigatoni Bolognese $17
This is Little Man's rigatoni bolognese. We didn't try this as he had his own plate but bolognese is done slow cooked ragu style with bones and soft shreds of beef.
Chard and eggplant $5 each
Of course with any meal you need vegetables and there is a tempting range of vegetables on offer. They choose two for us (one comes with one of the meals but we're not sure which one) and they're the perfect accompaniment to the meals. The chard is cooked with a little chilli and is comforting while the eggplant has a piquancy from vinegar that cuts through the unctuousness of the meat dishes.
"I'll give you a break of 15 minutes and then I'll come back for your dessert order," our waiter tells us. He leaves us the four choices to mull over and given that there are six of us, we decided on one of each of the four. And it is about then that Enrico emerges with a trumpet and they sing Happy Birthday to another customer.
I'm not the biggest profiterole lover, I prefer them with toffee for a bit of crunch but this is a generous serve with a nice dark chocolate.
Panna cotta $10
The panna cotta is a little firm but still good with the sweet berry compote on top.
Cannoli Romana $8
The cannoli are crunchy on the outside and filled with a smooth, creamy ricotta mixture. I enjoy the contrast of the crunchy against the creamy.
But really I have eyes just for the tiramisu. It's a generous serve with layers of soft biscuit, billowy mascarpone and a hit of coffee.
In a body swapping turn of events, Celia's eldest son Big Boy stems the flow of the red wine to his mother's glass and he and Little Man walk back to their house leaving Mr NQN, Celia, Pete and me enjoying the flush of warmth from the food, wine and company. The trumpet solo earlier in the night, a not too distant ring in our ears.
So tell me Dear Reader, what's your favourite solution to a challenging day? And do you like tripe? Would you try it?
This meal was independently paid for.
Righetto Osteria Romana
103 Ramsay Street, Haberfield, Ashfield, New South Wales 2045 (Formerly La Rosticceria)
Tel: +61 2 9799 5500
Lunch: Thursday to Sunday 12pm - 3pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday 5pm - late