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.
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.
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!