Review: Rosa’s Kitchen

I am embarrassed to say that Tuesday night was my first visit to Rosa’s Kitchen, a gorgeous little Italian restaurant on Punch Lane in the city. For starters, it’s in a hard-to-find laneway location, which always appeals to Melbournians. There were eight or nine of us out for an impromptu dinner. When we arrived to a fairly full restaurant, staff quickly made room for us, dragging in chairs and setting extra places.

The menu is written up on blackboards around the room, which is big and bright and features a few kitsch Italian decorations without it feeling too daggy. The menu is small and authentic. Pastas dominate the selection, with items like pecorino and ricotta ravioli with a fresh tomato sugo, squid-ink spaghetti with calamari or giant meatballs served simply with tasty green beans. The whole feel is family friendly and foodie friendly. Pastas are made fresh daily, bread and green salads are complementary with the main meals and there’s a decent Italian-focused wine list with wines by the glass or bottle.

Rosa's interior

Rosa’s interior

I love Italian food, so Rosa’s started on a strong footing with me, but it did really deliver. The flavours were fresh and simple. Nothing was particularly fancy or ingenious, but everything tasted like it had been made with care. I don’t think there was anything left on anyone’s plates at the end of our dinner. It’s the perfect place for a relaxed mid-week meal.

Rosa’s Kitchen has been well reviewed in professional reviews and Rosa Mitchell is, apparently, something of a legend. Hence the embarrassment of never having heard of the place, let alone eaten there, until Tuesday. I was surprised, however, on reading up on Rosa’s Kitchen, about the number of negative customer reviews. There were many complaining about the rude staff, expensive prices and small size of meals. Normally I tend to respect Melbournian’s reviews and ratings and side with fellow bloggers, but I think, on this occasion, I have to go out on a limb and write some of them off as, well, bogans. It was the last comment, about meal sizes, that really led me to this conclusion. Because the meals at Rosa’s were in no way small. They were average if not generous portion sizes. There was also a comment about there being ‘no cream or anything’ with the desserts that sounded decidedly bogan to me. There’s nothing I hate more than a very average piece of mud cake or something like that dressed up with mountains of fake whipped cream, twizzly bits of fruit and sickly amounts of chocolate syrup. I’m not saying some desserts don’t need cream or ice-cream (I don’t even consider sticky date pudding unless it comes with ice-cream), but quality Italian style cakes do not need fussy plating to be delicious. The desserts at Rosa’s were very simply served, but they needed no accompaniment. I had a pear, pistachio and chocolate cake which was tasty and rich without being sickly. My partner had the lemon and mascarpone tart which was a standout – very tangy and yet the mascarpone ensured it was creamy almost to the point of fluffiness.

I also felt the prices were quite reasonable. We had mains with sides, dessert and three bottles of wine, which ended up being about $60 each. The staff were varied in their approach and I can see how a reviewer who got the wrong staff might think them rude. A few were chatty and warm, others did their job and nothing more. Having said that, a table was procured very quickly for us, meals were a little slow but came out in a co-ordinated fashion and when we asked for one of the broccoli side dishes to come without anchovies (for me, the veggie) this was not a problem.

Simple yet delicious chocolate pear and pistachio cake at Rosa's

Simple yet delicious chocolate pear and pistachio cake at Rosa’s

I left Rosa’s warm, full and smiling – a genuine Italian experience I’d go back for many times.

P.S. – I’m also excited to let you know that I own northmelbournelife.com, so you can now find my blog at this much simpler domain name. Yay!

Rosa's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Christmas, golden retrievers and stuffed olives

This morning on Errol street I noticed that Christmas banners had been put up all along the street. Myer’s Christmas windows open this weekend. Chadstone shopping centre is already well and truly baubled. It is November 10 people! I know I sound like the Grinch, but I do actually love Christmas. There will be many Christmas related posts forthcoming on this blog. There will be instagrams of my beloved Christmas tree and pics with #plumpudding and #tofurkey all over Facebook (not that I actually eat tofurkey – very weird concept I think). Importantly, however, these will appear IN DECEMBER. I will put up my tree on December 1st and no sooner. I will not be induced into Christmas shopping /cooking/cleaning/packing/wrapping hysteria any sooner than necessary.

This, I have realised, is a sign I am getting old. Or, at the very least, I’ve somehow strayed into that ‘being and adult’ territory where the phrase ‘Christmas is coming’ is kind of like ‘Winter is coming’ in the Game of Thrones. It’s not just your attitude towards singing Santas and aggressive television commercials with dodgy looking elves that changes with age. Your tastebuds and food preferences change with age too. You can, and do, learn to like foods over time. My first solid food was pureed bananas. Then it was mashed potato. Then, oddly enough, I think it was small boxes of sultanas. I’ve come rather a long way from there and my tastebuds are still developing. About ten years ago I came round to pumpkin and beetroot. Up until maybe five years ago I completely avoided goats’ cheese, now I think I eat about a kilo of Milawa chevre a week. Mushrooms are also a relatively new found love, and a handy one, since I’m a vegetarian.

Lately I’ve become aware that my tastebuds are becoming seriously grown up. Like, my tastebuds have a mortgage and a golden retriever and three kids. I think some of them are even dyeing their greys and considering buying a beach house in Rye.

For example, you know your tastebuds are getting older when you opt for dark chocolate over milk. This has started happening to me. I still love Lindt milk squares, caramello koalas and Cadbury hazelnut chocolate. But my favourite chocolate is getting darker by the years. I’m now really into dark milk chocolate (around the 60% mark) and can happily eat several dark chocolate Koko Black truffles in one go. My mum, who is…well, let’s just say she’s a fair bit older than me, all she eats is dark chocolate, 75% or above, the darker and more bitter the better.

I’ve also started enjoying olives, something which I’d meticulously pick off pizza when I was young. Now I love sampling olives with different stuffings or oils and those sexy little Ligurian ones at the Queen Vic’s delis. Blue cheese is another very ‘adult’ taste. I did recently try blue cheese ice-cream (see my blog on N2 here) and didn’t mind it, whereas normally, when I taste blue cheese, I feel like I’ve eaten an overgrown petri dish mixed with boys’ gym socks. Finally, I’ve started agreeing with those crazy celebrity chef statements about brussel sprouts or broad beans actually being delicious if cooked well with loads of butter.

Besides growing up, apparently your hormones can also affect your taste preferences. I mean, I get massive chocolate cravings each month (to be honest it’s really all month…) but you can also crave certain foods based on deficiencies you have and your hormonal cycle. Also, did you know that you not only have tastebuds on your tongue, apparently there are buds on the roof of your mouth and your throat? Freaky!

Anyway, because this is a food and lifestyle blog and not a science one I’ll get back to food and away from anatomy and hormonal cycles. Below is a photo of a meal that me and my somewhat aging tastebuds enjoyed a week or two ago – super soft pan fried gnocchi with zucchini, buffalo mozzarella and peas. Nom nom nom.

Gnocchi at The European on Spring Street

Gnocchi at The European on Spring Street