In all my years of living in Sydney, I have surprisingly explored little of the city and its surrounding suburbs. And as restaurants and dining go, I’ve always opted for the usual suspects: the CBD, Chinatown etc., so I was particularly excited today to have lunch in Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’, the suburb of Leichhardt.
Walking down the main street, Norton St, the first thing I notice is the countless Italian restaurants with their tables lining the sidewalk (and also GPs and pharmacies…but that’s another story). It all kind of felt like a big Italian courtyard. Since there were so many restaurants to choose from, we decided on Cafe Gioia, which was right across the road from where my friend lived (lucky!)
The restaurant was originally an old petrol station and some of the structure remains, including the car park. Since it was a nice and sunny day we decided to sit outside. The only complaint was that the seats were right next to where the cars were parked, and whenever a car left we got a nice big swiff of petrol exhaust.
As expected, their menu had an extensive range of all thing Italian, from pizza to focaccia and a really really long pasta menu. The pizzas looked huge and ranged from $20 and onwards, while the focaccias were pretty cheap (around $8-9ish). I really felt like pasta so we settled on that.
Tortellini papalina – $17.80
Personally, for a cheap/poor uni student, the menu was kind of pricey, but it seemed to be the standard in Leichhardt and it was completely worth it.
The tortellini was stuffed with a meat filling. The papalina sauce was rich and flavoursome and tomato-y, and was accompanied with mushrooms and bacon. The friend ordered a seafood marinara sphagetti with a similar sauce but more…seafood-y? in flavour and less rich. It was served with mussels, prawns and a heap of octopus, so pretty good value for seafood!
Spaghetti Marinara – $17.80
Although the servings didn’t look large, they were deceptively filling and I was stuffed by the end of my pasta. However, I just couldn’t resist a good genuine, home-made Italian tiramisu.
Home-made tiramisu – $7.70
The tiramisu had nicely complemented layers of fluffy cream and chewy shortbread, and it wasn’t too rich which I liked. It was served with a chocolate and rum(?) sauce. You can get cream and ice-cream with it for an additional $1, but I was glad that I didn’t because against my stomach’s protestations, I finished the tiramisu and pretty much couldn’t move afterwards.
Overall, it was a satifsfying, hearty Italian meal and I can’t wait to go back to Leichhardt: one restaurant down, many more to go!
Gioia Cafe (visited 8/05/09)
126A Norton St
Leichhardt, NSW 2040
Ph: (02) 9564 6245