306 Lygon St
Carlton VIC 3053
(03) 9347 5500
I love Italian food. God bless the carb-loving, sugo-slurping and meatball-rolling Italians. If I had no choice but to live on pasta for the rest of my life, I would die a happy girl. Nick and I, we both love our pastas. In fact, we’re the stuff of Dr Atkins’ worst nightmares. And while Lygon Street isn’t where I’d normally go for ‘authentic’ Italian food, I usually can’t say no to any meal that involves pasta of some sort. To DiMattina‘s we went one wet Wednesday evening in July, one of Nick’s favourite restaurants and where I had a decent chicken tortellini some five years ago.
DiMattina’s, owned by Paul DiMattina’s of Western Bulldogs fame, is one of those restaurants that don’t put themselves out there but still attract a steady stream of clients – kind of like my cousin … ahaha, okay bad analogy. Unlike the other Italian restaurants on the Safeway side of Lygon Street, there are no checkered tablecloths and no spruikers outside DiMattina’s. Rather, the restaurant itself is bright and welcoming and its Roman-style mural and AFL memorabilia paying homage to both the owner’s Italian heritage and AFL career. The cynics in us may argue that the family-friendly and almost bogue-tastic decor may send Brenda and Eddie running in the opposite direction, but it would certainly make the likes of Gatto and his boys feel right at home.
Sitting in a rather clumily positioned table in the middle of the room, we ordered our drinks – a glass of Mrs Wigley moscato for myself ($7.50 – yes, I know and shut up) and a bottle of Coopers Sparkling for him ($6.50). And although my moscato was presented to me already poured, the waitress did actually come back to take my glass back to replace it with another one as the first glass was “flat.” Tick. Slices of adequate herb bread whetted our appetites for our pasta mains ($3.90 for four slices).
Both our mains arrived at the same time, ‘suspiciously quick’ I might add. I had the penne ortolana ($21.90 for a main-sized plate), a vegetarian pasta consisting of swiss brown mushrooms, snow peas and cherry tomatoes, with the opinion of having prawns mixed in there for an extra $4 (I didn’t). In all honesty, this dish is something that I could whip up at home with my eyes closed and I’m spewing over the fact that I didn’t order a lasagne ($19.90) instead. And while I liked that the olive oil prevented this dish from being heavy, it didn’t really bring all the vegies together. I still ate it all though.
Nick had the penne pollo ($21.90 for a main-sized plate), a chicken, mushroom, spring onion and cream. Again, this was a dish that I could make at home but it was miles better than my ortolana. It may have been cream-based, but it wasn’t overly heavy. It was perhaps a little bland, but with the addition of a fist-sized amount of parmesan, it was winner in Nick’s eyes.
Our pastas may have arrived ‘suspiciously quick’ but the rate at which our desserts arrived made me wonder whether the people at DiMattina’s had ESP or something. Surprisingly, the highlight of tonight’s dinner was not the shade of Nick’s purple shirt but how deliciously good my vanilla creme brulee ($12.50) was. My main may have been mediocre but my creme brulee certainly made up for it – it had a perfect crunchy crust and a soft, silky filling with the right amount of sweetness. It was accompanied by a small tub of vanilla ice cream topped with a strawberry. Yum.
Nick’s sticky date pudding ($10.90) was just as good but not quite. Like my creme brulee, it was accompanied by vanilla ice cream and a strawberry. Unlike mine, however, his mound was moist and sticky rather than silky smooth (oh deary me, double entendre unintended). I liked that the pudding wasn’t terribly rich or sickingly sweet, and the caramel sauce created a lovely hit.
The total came to $85.10 but waving my Entertainment Book card around meant that the damage was only $64.90. Like Billy Joel’s ability to churn out the greatest hits and Brad Johnson, DiMattina’s seemed to have worn itself out with age. The menu was shorter, the mains were not as memorable as last time and our fellow diners looked as exhausted as one would feel if they had to sit through yet another rendition of ‘Piano Man’ at a karaoke lounge. Still, I can’t say that I will rule DiMattina’s out for future Lygon Street dinners. It still attracts a decent amount of regulars, their service is not only friendly but also efficient (like, ridiculously efficient) and their desserts are pretty damn good. If only I could say the same about the Western Bulldogs. Poor game this weekend, boys, poor game. Sigh.