My search for the ultimate Italian experience at Leichhardt remains incomplete. I have yet to find that perfect combination of great mood + great food with fresh ingredients. The last time I went hunting with my family, we ended up in a quiet, cosy little place – which will remain anonymous – imagining that we would be served with wholesome, rustic home-style cooking. Instead, we ended up with real mediocre fare: a tough veal parmigiana topped with what looked like microwaved mozzarella and a lazy side of of limp lettuce, fettucine that was slightly overcooked (albeit with a rich, creamy sauce) and a dessert that tasted like it came out of the frozen section at Woolies. Ugh, complete disappointment.
This time, The Boyfriend and I ended up at La Botte D’oro, which has been owned by the Petrini family since 1977. I’d made sure to read up on plenty of reviews (by regular diners, bloggers and critics) before heading to the restaurant, and I’d read that they tended to discriminate against those with a Scoupon (?) – or one of those group vouchers, whatever they’re called. We actually had a been of an ‘incident’, where I was puzzled by the cold shoulder they gave us.
They sat us down in a cramped corner across the men’s bathroom and served customers who arrived after us – not even giving us menus until we asked for them. Then the guy who was serving us came over and asked if ‘we had a groupon voucher’. It look me a while to understand him, because he had a thick Italian accent, but I almost laughed when I realised what the matter was. When I said “we made a booking for eight, but we’re a little early”, he must have thought I said “we have a groupon for eight”, or something along those lines.
After that little misunderstanding was cleared up, it was actually hilarious to see how much friendlier they were to us. Still, as funny as it was, I’m not sure if I want to return there, knowing they’re so rude to certain customers. If they didn’t want to serve people who had coupons, they shouldn’t have agreed to the deal in the first place. I’d had a fairly good first impression of La Botte D’oro up until that point, but the ugliness of their lack of hospitality sort of dimmed the pleasant, warm family-restaurant atmosphere for me. But enough about that, I was hungry, and willing to forgive and forget if the food made up for it!
We started off with their house speciality antipasto plate. They had a decent range on their antipasto menu, including garlic prawns (yum!) and I’d hoped this plate would be like a tasting platter of all of them, kind of like how you get a mixed entree plate at Thai places, where you can get moneybags and chicken skewers and fish cakes. Maybe I’ve been watching too much TV, and I was expecting something on a large wooden board, like in Jamie Oliver. But this plate was stale and disappointing. To be fair, the bocconcini and prosciutto and pickles tasted fresh enough, but it all felt a little lazy, like there was no care put into the flavours or preparation of most of the components (esp. the zucchini and mushrooms).
A modo mio ($16/med, $20/lge) – tomato, mozzarella, pine nut, apple, rocket, shaved parmesan
La Botte D’oro redeemed themselves with the pizza and risotto. The pizza base was thin and crisp, and all the ingredients went well together, only it would have tasted so much nicer if the apple had been cooked as well instead of being placed raw on top (like apple crisps – I love those!). The truffle and mushroom risotto was wonderfully rich, smoky and woodsy – and actually tasted like a proper risotto, instead of like a lump of uncooked rice, which unfortunately sums up the larger part of my past encounters with risottos.
Risotto al tartufo ($18.00) – rice with truffles and mushrooms
Pannacotta with strawberry sauce ($8.00)
Dessert was another disappointment. I read in other diners’ reviews that I should avoid the tiramisu, so I opted for one of my favourites: pannacotta. I can understand that a family-owned restaurant like this can’t really be expected to produce desserts with the artistry and technical flair of Adriano Zumbo, but I had my doubts about whether this was even made in their kitchen. Not only was my pannacotta sadly lopsided and falling apart as they placed it on the table, but it looked suspiciously like one of those generic brand desserts they sell at supermarkets. Again, all would have been forgiven if it tasted fantastic (after all, aesthetics only goes so far with food), but all the creamy goodness of the pannacotta was buried under the garish cheap taste of that sweet, sticky sauce.
My final verdict is that this is a decent place to dine, very reasonable in terms of price/value if (A) you don’t have a Groupon voucher, and (B) you select the right dishes (and stay with them!). Their pizzas are delicious – but then again if you’re only going to have pizza, then surely try a pizzeria, since there are many restaurants on Norton St which are well-known just for their pizza.
La Botte D’oro is located in 137 Marion St Leichhardt, Sydney (02) 9560 1349