Saturday, 25 January 2014

Dell'Ugo New Farm - Ristorante Italiano

I've been feasting on plenty of Italian cuisine lately.  It's been pretty easy really, I quite like Italian food and the philosophy that the Italians have of using simple fresh ingredients to extract maximum flavour.  There's also the share aspect and while many cultures centre their lifestyle around food, the Italians seem to do it with just an extra little bit of flair.  We've been to check out many of the newer Italian dining destinations lately, so I thought it was time to check out Brisbane's long standing 'Ristorante Italiano'.

Dell'Ugo is the passion of Giuseppe and Gloria Robertiello who saw an opportunity to fulfil a dream of providing the people of Brisbane with a restaurant that delivered authentic Italian cuisine.  One day in 2000, Giuseppe was in the New Farm area and noticed that a beautiful old restaurants was available for sale.  Such was his passion and drive, Giuseppe had made the purchase and within a month had opened Cafe Dell'Ugo Ristorante Italiano. It was only a few short years later that Giuseppe and Gloria teamed up with friend Soula to open up Dell'Ugo at Southbank and at around the same time shortened the ristorante's name to Dell'Ugo New Farm.

In all the years I've lived in Brisbane, I'd never been to Dell'Ugo at New Farm.  I'm sure I couldn't count the number of times I've driven or walked up and down Brunswick Street and thought to myself I need to get along and check it out.  I've even been to most of the restaurants in the little strip that Dell'Ugo is located along and checked out the sister restaurant over at Southbank.  Yep, it sure was time to check out one of Brisbane's most respected traditional Italian diners.

It was a Tuesday night and I didn't think I needed to make a booking but have learned my lesson over the last twelve months, you can't take these things for granted, so I'd made a reservation for two at 6:30pm.  As we pulled up and found a park on Brunswick Street right across the road from Dell'Ugo, I noticed the face of Guiseppe looking out one of the windows of the diner, just watching the world pass by.  As we risked our lives crossing the very busy peak hour traffic of Brunswick Street, the door to Dell'Ugo was opened and with a beaming smile, we were welcomed to the restaurant.

We were the first to arrive at the restaurant and as is so often the case, we were able to score great seats which gave a great view of the restaurant and also allowed us to also look out of a window and watch the world pass on by.  We were given our menus to look over and SC ordered a glass of wine.  In a fine Italian tradition, the kitchen is run by eldest son Nicola, who has put the comprehensive menu together.  Nicola has been in and out of the restaurant over the years to build his knowledge and mastery of cooking, a journey that took him to 3 Michelin Star Italian restaurant 'Don Alfonso 1890" in Naples.  His time in one of the worlds top restaurants has allowed Nicola to bring a very modern approach to the menu, while maintaining a very traditional feel.  A menu that has helped Dell"Ugo receive a chefs hat from the Australian Good Food Guide.

Once we scanned the starter options, we entered a bit of a Mexican stand off with both of us wanting to order the Cappesante Al Forno - oven baked scallops rolled in pancetta and served in a bed of avocado.  I finally relented and let SC have the joy of the sweet sweet scallops that were nicely cooked wrapped within crispy, salty pancetta.  There were a generous five scallops on the plate and each of the scallops sat on top of an avocado puree, which gave extra texture but also some creaminess to the dish.  It was a really nice way to start off a meal and SC shared one of the scallops with me, which was a bonus!

I acquiesced on the scallops because I quite liked the sound of the Calamari Ripieni - baby calamari filled with fish braised in tomato sauce served with a potato and beetroot salad.  I've had stuffed baby squid a number of times and always liked it, it can be filled with all sorts of ingredients.  The stuffed baby calamari had been sliced in thick pieces and drizzled in a rich tomato sauce.  I really liked the flavour of the calamari and the braised fish stuffing, but I found it just a little dry - probably as a consequence of the bread crumbs.  The tomato sauce took most of the dryness away, but I would have like a little more sauce to help with the eating. The combination of the calamari, tomato sauce and beetroot was an interesting one and as it turned out, the combination worked with the sweetness of the beetroot linking nicely with the rich tomato flavour.

After deciding on her main, SC had a sudden change of heart once she heard about the pasta special on offer. We missed most of the Italian name for the pasta, our Italian being quite rusty (ummm, non existent) but SC picked up that the pasta was spaghetti and it had mushrooms and Italian sausage included and that was enough.  When the pasta was placed on our table, we were happy to note it was a normal sized bowl of food, as opposed to some incredibly large bowls of pasta that no normal human can get through.  After accepting the offer of a little chilli oil to be drizzled over the top of the pasta, SC set about digging in.  The pasta was a perfect al dente and mixed with a beautiful tomato and mushroom based sauce that had chunks of Italian sausage spread throughout.  It was a wonderful example of Italian cuisine which SC enjoyed immensely.

After confirming that the pasta servings weren't going to be massive, I also chose a pasta as my main for the evening.  With fond memories of my favourite pasta dish in town (the duck ragout from Beccofino, see post here) I ordered the Casarecce Al Ragu' - pork, veal and beef ragout slowly cooked in tomato, parmesan and basil sauce with home made casarecce shaped pasta.  I'd opted for a drizzling of chilli oil over the top of my pasta too, which added a zing to the rich and delicious tomato based sauce.  I quite enjoyed the ragu' with wonderfully cooked al dente pasta and lots of sauce to mop up, but I would have loved a little more of the protein in the dish which would have balanced the sauce and pasta perfectly.

Because our starters and in particular our pasta mains had been a perfect size for us (not gigantic) we had plenty of room for dessert, not that this was ever in dispute!  I had no hesitation in ordering the Cuore Di Cioccolato - delicious chocolate pudding with a soft flowing chocolate heart served with vanilla bean ice cream.  There was a bit of a chuckle and a comment from the staff that I was in for a treat when the plate was ceremoniously placed in front of me.  The dessert looked quite simple with a large chocolate pudding with a 'snowball' of ice cream sitting atop.  It wasn't until I cracked open the pudding and watched the warm and gooey centre come oozing over the plate and took my first bite that I knew what he was referring to.  It tasted spectacular and with the heat from the pudding and the cold of the ice cream, I had a party raging in my mouth and it was on for one and all.  I loved the slice of white chocolate that had Dell'Ugo to help the presentation, not that I needed reminding of where we were.

SC kept it simple and traditional with her Tiramisu - dipped in coffee liquor and layered with mascarpone and fresh cream.  I'm personally not a fan of Tiramisu, which is usually flavoured with coffee and filled with booze but I did have a taste and it was not bad.  More importantly, SC thought it was delicious and finished it off very quickly, the combination of coffee and booze meeting all of her dessert expectations.

As it turned out, we didn't need to make a reservation on a Tuesday night, it was fairly quite for the time we were there.  We did see people starting to drift in around 7:30pm, a more traditional dinner time for most and by the time we finished up, there were half a dozen tables filled.

One of the things I loved about our visit to Dell'Ugo was the treatment we relieved from all of the staff, who were friendly all night.  In fact, we almost felt part of the family and happily engaged in friendly banter with the team.  I loved that we were greeted at the door when we entered and again as we left, with the door opened for us on each occasion.  We even had Giuseppe come over a number of times throughout the meal to make sure we were happy with everything.

It was a lovely and quite romantic night for us, with the pressed white linen and silver on the table providing an inviting yet stylish environment to eat dinner.  We enjoyed our meal very much with the highlights being the pasta mains and my chocolate pudding dessert and I left the restaurant feeling full and contented.  

The chocolate pudding dessert really was spectacular - chocolate and vanilla living in perfect harmony!
Just the right amount of pasta on our plates and the addition of chilli oil really hit the mark
I'd love to visit Dell'Ugo when it's pumping and full of life
A welcome to the restaurant once you walk through the door.
It's quite a large dining room that would be amazing and lively when full of diners
SC had her customary glass of wine

Dell'Ugo New Farm on UrbanspoonDell'Ugo New Farm

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