Name: La Posada
Address: 60 Alinga Street, Canberra City, ACT, 2601
Ph: 02 6248 5444
Hours: Lunch – Monday to Friday, 12-2.30pm. Dinner – Wednesday to Saturday, 5.45pm until late.
It had that smell.
Aroma can drag you by the nose through your memories, placing you wherever the scent fits. They evoke real moments in your life, as well as dreamed ones, creating images and ideas that swirl together. Sometimes they fit where you are, sometimes they don’t.
Here, they fit.
Sweet tomatoes, garlic, and the yeasty odor of fresh made dough are the essence of Italy. The instant they hit you, the imagination flies to images of a big family drinking, singing and bottling passata.
For me, it brings back memories of a small deli in Rome, during a trip there a decade ago, where dozens of people would line the street, queuing for pizza bianco, cut into slabs straight from the oven. It is the smell of real Italian food, and it is far too often absent from Italian restaurants.
But when you walk into La Posada, over in the Melbourne restaurant, it smacks you in the face the second you walk through the door, and boy is it exciting. Your appetite is whetted before you even reach the table.
And mostly, the promise of this aroma is delivered. From the beginning, a very simple garlic butter focaccia, straight from the oven, has that punch of that greatest of bulbs on a thin, crisp base. It’s not brining anything unexpected, but that doesn’t matter when the simple is this good.
The same can be said with the pastas. Spaghetti e Polpette is the most basic strands of pasta in a sauce that is barely more than just tomato. But on the side of the place, with flavour belying their size, are three tiny meatballs of pork and veal. Rich, juicy, and one the best examples of this staple that I have ever had. A small amount of fresh shaved parmesan on top just finished it off (take note Mama’s Trattoria).
La Posada are famous for their pizzas, having used the same recipe for their bases since they opened in 1997. Nearly 15 years of practice has clearly done them some good. When you bite into them, the initial crunch gives way to a gentle chewiness.
While the base is the foundation of a pizza, it is the toppings that turn them into art. Here they are kept clean and simple, with Italian pomodoro pizza sauce and stretched mozzarella underpinning most options. On one named for the restaurant, sweetness of fresh tomato and smoky porkiness of pepperoni and bacon are cut through by the saline sharpness of Mediterranean anchovies, an ingredient that most people should give another chance.
An even more basic version is the Gorgonzola and Friends, with just this classic Italian cheese, a touch of chilli, and a slightly too large pile of fresh roquette on top. As a cheese, gorgonzola has that balance of sweet and savoury that is so pleasing that they were smart to leave it alone.
There were misses, still. The arancini were woefully dull. Completely underseasoned and with provolone cheese that were bland to the point of being ignored, these tasted like nothing more than rice. But this was the exception, rather than the rule.
For dessert, as always in Italian restaurants, I went with Tiramisu, and this was an excellent version. You could taste the coffee, and taste the Marsala, which is sometimes unfortunately rare. If I wanted to quibble, I could say that I’d prefer a little more mascarpone, but that’s just being picky.
La Posada is a great night out. It is simple food, done with real care, and not costing the world. Even the wine list, though short, has some real gems at around $40 a bottle.
I have been looking for a good, casual Italian joint for a while. With La Posada, I have finally found it. Now I just wish they could bottle that smell.