Is there anything more exciting to see a 5kg tub of Nutella sitting on the shelf in a restaurant?
Especially when it is only an arm's stretch away right above me. "When I saw the 10kg Nutella in Italy, I want to get them and bring them back, but for some reason, no one seems to import the 10kg tub here in Australia," John Lanzafame tells us in disappointment. Does the name sound familiar to you?
That's right, John Lazanfame is the man behind that 8.5 meter long pizza that you've seen on Junior Masterchef last night and who also won the world pizza championship title in New York back in 2005. After many years as the former executive chef of Hugo’s Lounge and Hugo’s Bar Pizza, John finally opened his own door recently and now the chef and restaurateur of his new self-titled, Lanzafame Trattoria, tucked away at the Kings Cross side of Woolloomooloo.
I am here today to sample a few signature dishes at Lanzafame, albeit I just had a biggish breakfast at LUXE only an hour ago. But when there are pizza, nutella, and classic home cooked Italian cuisines, I simply couldn't decline such a mouthwatering offer.
From the outside, the restaurant is cleverly disguised into a mini Italy in the neighbourhood with eye-catching picturesque Italian street scenes images printed on big panels of sun shade roller blinds. As I walk inside, the first thing I noticed is the long bar stretches the whole length of the restaurant which explains that this space was used to be a lounge bar. Black wooden tables and chairs are lined up along the L-shape dining area, a fireplace built into a plasma TV is radiating "virtual" warmth for that extra cosiness, just like the Italian hospitality.
Since there are only two of us, we decide to share all the dishes and will see how we go before thinking about desserts. We start off with an entree of meatballs to share and they are huge in the size of a tennis ball! The meatballs are incredibly tender and sweet with a combination of pork and veal mince with the occasional fragrant of garlic and herbs; simmered in an intense rich napoletana sauce that has a hint of spicy kick, which is nicely balanced with a generous mound of grated pecorino cheese on top.
I was really looking forward to try that special pizza that John had made for the World Pizza Championship, but sadly the braised octopus pizza is actually not on the menu. We settle on a small Puttanesca Pizza which is high on Terry Durack's recommendations in his review on SMH.
The crusty pizza base is heavenly thin, evenly spread with cherry tomatoes, slivers of anchovies, capers and black olives under a layer of mozzarella. It might look simple, but the flavour is bold and incredible, every bite is a balance of salty anchovies, sweet tomatoes, bitter olives, and the sudden pop of sour capers.
The food at Lanzafame is Italian, is classic home cooking dishes, is unpretentious, as John calls it, "the rustic". They pride themselves with everything freshly made in house including pasta, pizza, bread and gelato.
The chicken schnitzel parmigiana is indeed beautifully presented, served straight on a hot iron pan on top of the wooden board. The two thick slices of tender chicken breasts are crumbed then pan fried to a seductive golden brown, both snugly tucked under a thick blanket of molten mozarella cheese, while the hot tomato sauce on the pan slowly bubbling away. They truly are comforting especially during the winter months. As much as I'd like to devour most of it, but I simply have to save some stomach space for the next dish.
I've been suggested that the pork belly pizza is one must order from the menu, but I say skip the carbs and just get the pork belly on its own! The slow braised pork belly is melt-in-the-mouth tender in a thick caramelised reduction that is sweet and sticky. Our knives simply can't cut through that solid square tile of pork crackling, we end up simply by picking it up with our fingers and crunch it down for instant gratification. A bed of roasted pear and basil caserole adds sweetness to the pork.
I have never had trouble when comes to desserts but this time I am really struggling, and judge by the sizes of the dishes we've already had, I can just expect the dessert will be just as huge and I am not wrong. "You simply can't come to Lanzafame without trying the Calzone," John insists.
Served on a wooden board, the half-moon shaped Nutella calzone is a true beauty, nice golden pastry with an evenly precised pleats along the edge, lightly dusted with icing sugar and served with a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream on the side. I pick up the carving knife and take the honour by cutting the calzone in half.
My heart has just skipped a beat when I see the innards is heavily filled with nutella and banana chunks, it is a children wildest dream come true. Love at first bite, almost like eating nutella straight out of a jar, the thick chocolate sauce is extremely nutty sweet and is so rich, the banana just adds even more sweetness to it. Despite we are already sharing, I still couldn't finish my half with a few mouthfuls left, whereas my dining companion hardly made a dent on his. It gets too cloy towards the end and I simply have to stop before I need an insulin injection. It is truly not for the faint-hearted.
John later comes back and tells us they had a little kid came in with his dad a few weeks back and had nothing but a whole nutella calzone on his own! Screaming hyperactive kid with sugar rush, anyone?
John also hands me over his latest cookbook, Family Italian, for a quick flip through. The cookbook will hit the bookstore on 1st November, and inside is filled with recipes that stay true to his background and culture, including how to build a fire pit in the ground, definitely a cookbook to keep an eye out for.
If Italian is your favourite type of food then you are in for a treat. One of ATFT readers will be the lucky winner to win a dinner for two valued of $150 at Lazanfame. All you have to do is answer a simple question and leave a comment on this post. The nutella calzone is waiting. ;)
1 x Dinner for two at Lanzafame, Wolloomooloo
valued of $150.00
Note: Entries are opened to Sydney residents only!
HOW TO ENTER Leave a comment and tell us what is your favourite Italian dish?
Terms & Conditions 1. Entry will be judged on honesty, creativity or entertainment value.
2. Readers may submit one entry per day before closing date.
3. The competition closes on Thur 11th Nov 2010 at 11.59pm AEST. The winners will be announced on Fri 12th Nov 2010.
4. Winner will be notified by email and organise a date when you would like to dine at the restaurant.
5. Please use contact form if you have any questions.
Good luck and thank you!
Lanzafame Trattoria 88 Crown St
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
P: (02) 9331 8881
lunch and dinner 7 days per week
Dinner | from 6pm Lunch | from 12:00 midday
[ATFT dined as a guest of Lanzafame Trattoria]