Local dining is improving and it does provide a lot of options when venturing out to the city proves a little too hard. The Italian is exactly that, it brings a little slice of Italy to the leafy suburbs of Willoughby. I have been meaning to try The Italian for a while now as I was drawn to their wood fired oven in their open kitchen when reading various reviews on the place.
This was a bit of an impromptu visit on a Saturday night with Mr Dough prompting me to make a booking or at least call ahead to ensure there will be tables. I assured him it should be fine as if we couldn’t find a table there, we could easily wander next door to High St Bistro or Goshico. When we arrived, the place was fairly packed! I was expecting to be seated outside but luckily they were able to find us a table.
I cast my eye quickly to the specials board along the wall and instead of eyeing out the food first, I had found my drink! The drink was like a fruit punch to me and I must remember to make it for Christmas this year.
There is an extensive selection of Italian wines and we randomly selected one to try. The wine was very easy to drink and quite light for a Merlot.
Me being greedy, I wanted to try everything on the menu BUT I have learnt to restrain myself and order what I think I can eat. In the end we settled for 2 pastas and a pizza. I made mine a kids size so I can eat more pizza!
The pasta I chose comes from the region of Puglia. The sauce made from anchovies, chilli and olive oil coated the little florets of broccoli which was then tossed in toasted bread crumbs. The anchovies did not over power the sauce and just provided with just enough saltiness to enhance the pasta. Mr Dough was won over by this dish as he normally isn’t a fan of anchovies.
Mr Dough did the reverse of me and eyed out the food specials first instead of the alcohol and immediately wanted the pasta. The cockles are simply cooked in white wine amd chilli. The spaghetti is house-made with 100% durum wheat which results in whole wheat colour looking and much harder texture. The only minor improvement was a little extra salt for seasoning.
The pizza is made from 100% organic, biodynamic flour and cooked in a woodfired oven which provides a smokey flavour to the pizza. The pizza menu is divided into 2: red and white. The toppings are all very simple and hearty. Since we there was no meat in our pastas, I chose pancetta as a topping. I saw a boscaiola as a topping and wondered if it was going to be rich and creamy like the pasta sauce.
The pizza base had a nice char but yet it was not burnt or too dry. The pizza dough was very chewy and the toppings was generous enough not to weigh down the base. We saw the pizza is finished off in the woodfired oven with the top of the pizza being held up at the roof of the oven to ensure all cheese is melted and cooked through. I would have prefered more chilli on my pizza but hey, that’s just me because I am a chilli fiend!
We still had half a bottle of wine left and decided that we could fit dessert in. I ordered off the specials menu (again).
The pannacotta wasn’t as light as I hoped as it was very, very creamy. I had to make sure each mouthful had some strawberries so it would counteract the richness. Something else which I wasn’t expecting from the pannacotta is the taste of honey!
The wine is finally finished and a takeaway voucher was presented with the bill. Note to self: another good excuse to not cook on a weeknight and to try more pizzas!!
191 High St, Willoughby, NSW
Bookings via http://www.dimmi.com.au