Name: Italian and Sons
Address: Shop 6, 7 Lonsdale St, Braddon, ACT
Ph: 02 6162 4888
Hours: Tues-Fri, lunch, Mon-Sat, dinner
Chefs: Carolyn Miller and Pasquale Trimboli
Sometimes the world just sets out to taunt you. Whether it’s the power going out just before a major television event, the sun coming out just as you have to start work for eight hours, or the gorgeous girl down the road turning out to be engaged, there are moments that the universe is a tease.
Reading the menu at Italian and Sons gave me one of these moments. Sitting down, descriptions of slow cooked lamb, or of wood fired rib eye beef set my mouth watering. Then I looked closer, only to see that these were part of their list of daily specials, and that their day was not Friday. Such a tease.
Thankfully, the menu that was available on Friday did not disappoint. Despite a rather tacky name and décor that seems to self-consciously hit every requirement for a modern trattoria, Italian and Sons proved to be one of more enjoyable dining experiences in Canberra.
As we perused the confusing layout of the menu, the table began our first carafe of a very palatable trebbiano and devoured a warm, smoky wood-baked foccacia.
We shared a number of antipasti dishes for entrée. Sadly I was unable to talk my companions into trying the stuffed sardines, but no matter. Some attractively twisted prawns sautéed with garlic and peppers was a suitable alternative. Sweet and comfortable, it gave all the flavours a showing. The parmesan and zucchini fritters were light and salty, and would make a wonderful snack at the movies. Some slightly bland fried calamari was forgettable, but not distracting.
The clear highlight of this section of the meal was the affetatti (cold meats). It is hard to pass up cured pig, and this small selection, presented elegantly on a slab of wood, demonstrated why. We chose the imported proscuitto di parma and the capocollo piccante (shoulder meat), and both had the silken saltiness that all great cured meats have. Delightful.
For mains, the aesthetics of the word ‘ragu’ combined with potato gnocchi to make a combination both my companions were unable to pass-up. This turned out to be a sensible decision. The gnocchi were soft pillows, exactly as they should be but so often aren’t. But they were merely the vehicle to support the rich meatiness of the veal and marjoram ragu. It was proof positive that, when you eat Italian, there are good reasons to stick to the pasta menu.
I left the menu, and instead went for a special of pork and fennel sausage with polenta and roasted capsicums. While not a bad dish, it lacked balance. Appearing as two short, fat sausages on a very small pile of polenta with a tiny portion of capsicum beside it, it was an underwhelming delivery. The sausages were juicy, porky goodness, yet there was sadly no trace of fennel. It matched well with the beautifully sweet, smoky roast capsicum, but there was not enough of it. I ran out about two bites into the second sausage. There was also not enough polenta, but this worried me less as it was glugier than I like.
Going with a classic for dessert I had a tira mi su. It is difficult to go past a soft, coffee tainted pudding, and this was a very solid version. Did exactly what it was meant to, and left me feeling good to end the meal
The service was strong, particularly by Canberra standards, although the spaces between courses were just pushing too long. Also, they need to improve their water service. If you don’t put bottles of water on the table, the waiters need to keep an eye on water levels, something that wasn’t done here.
These were minor quibbles in what was a very enjoyable meal, and at well less than $100 per person, it was priced exactly where I would expect. I will definitely go back again.
Just next time, maybe on a Tuesday.