When you go to dinner at Aperitivo you could always flip a coin to decide from which of the two sides of the menu you’re going to order. On one side are pizzas (the real thing!) just like I’ve had in Italy with a traditional base. On the other are the small bites you’d expect at a place that’s named Aperitivo.
Or you could do what we did on the first night of the new summer menu, and order from both.
The stand out dish of the night for me was the Risotto – Lavender risotto served with crispy skin rock perch. Bravo Head Chef Joe Cavallo! Risotto is not a dish I often order in restautants these days. It’s rarely done well and it’s too easy to be disappointed. The lavender intrigued me. I really rate this Aperitivo risotto with superb flavour and great bite. The Acquarello Carnoroli Rice is sourced from Lario “Aged while still unpolished for over a year in stainless steel silos, this process renders the starch, proteins and vitamins less soluble in water”. The secret of a good risotto is the combination of great ingredients and care in the cooking.
Dinner was with my brother and we discussed the risotto flavours at length. The lavender was at fulcrum. We feel this is a brave dish. As he said, it would have been too easy to tip the lavender either way. Too little and the dish would be insignificant. Too much and the lavender would overpower. This sat where it should – in the middle. The base tasted like fish stock so we checked. Yes indeed the rest of the whole fish is used to make the stock. I’ll say it again, I really liked this dish. And we enjoyed all of our scrumptious other little bites too.
The test of a good pizzaiolo (pizza chef) – like getting an artist drawing a circle – so they say, is to taste the Margherita. There are two on offer at Aperitivo – Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, basil, parmesan) and Margherita Buffala (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomato, basil). We taste tested the latter.
It is said that the Margherita was first created in Naples in 1889 by Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, who was asked to prepare a special dish in honour of the Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni ‘s visit. The red white and green of the pizza ingredients represent the colours of the Italian flag.
There’s an art to a good pizza and the all important pizza base. Francesco Spataro uses doppio zero (00) flour for his base and a sourdough starter as the raising agent. His carefully tended ‘mother’ is now 18 months old. Then, the trick is in the kneading, to firm the dough to the pan in the middle for a crisp centre, and give less attention to the edges. We went back again this weekend for more and tried the Pizza alla Norma which Francesco Spataro designed after the dish Pasta alla Norma. Legend has it that this classic Sicilian dish was named for Bellini’s opera Norma, which premiered in 1831 at La Scala. Needless to say Fancesco’s pizza topping follows the pasta that inspired it with Tomato, Basil, EVO, Eggplant and Ricotta Salata (saltier and slightly more sour than regular ricotta). And this pizza and our second visit still had us singing.
Whether you’re a Leichardt local or like me froma little further afield in Sydney, Apertivo is worth the journey. Not just for the so Sydney summer Aperol but for either side of the menu! Oh and we didn’t forget dessert! Delicious Italian donuts with chocolate for dipping or a personal summer favourite of mine – Watermelon & Campari Granita. We’ll just have to make another visit to try the Nutella Ravioli.
163 Norton Street, Leichhardt NSW 2040
+ 61 2 9564 0003