Thursday, 25 September 2014

Casual Dining - La Via the South Bank pizzeria

There had been all sorts of excitement.  We'd just bought a snazzy new apartment in the city, well, a new apartment in our building, and had been busy cleaning up our place to start to show prospective purchasers through.  It's a pretty nervous time, you want people to love your place enough to want to buy it.  Being pretty lazy, our plan had been to hire in some cleaners to completely spruce up the place before it formerly went on the market, a plan that went off without a hitch.  We were pretty wiped out from a day of keeping busy while the cleaners went to work, so unsurprisingly, we decided on dinner out.

Being a last minute thing, I'd wanted to go somewhere easy for dinner, but I also had an almost zealot like desire for pizza, so we needed to find a place that did decent pizza.  South Bank is not normally a location that you'd normally associate with great pizza, but I seemed to remember walking past a restaurant in Little Stanley Street that did pizza.  I really couldn't recall it's name, so took to the interwebs to see if I could find it and make a booking.  You've really gotta love Google, it doesn't take much to find anything these days, and before I knew it, our table was secured and we were on our way.

It was a pretty nice day, so we decided to walk over to South Bank.  While we wandered over, we reflected on the hit and miss nature of the restaurants at South Bank.  Our conclusion was that with so many restaurants, and being so busy most of the time, it was hard to have a consistent service and we'd just had some crappy experiences.  I also wondered if the high level of walk in traffic mean that restaurants didn't have to worry about repeat business and therefore didn't always focus in on the little things.  All completely speculative, of course.

La Via was much further down Little Stanley Street than I remembered it being, so far down in fact it was right by the 5th Element (see post here).  We'd arrived about thirty minutes before our reservation time, hoping to get in a little earlier.  The little Italian restaurant was completely packed and we wondered if there would be a little bit of a wait before we were seated.  We were in luck, and were seated early in probably the only two seats left in the whole dining area.

Our waitress dropped off a couple of menus to look over and poured us a couple of glasses of water before zooming off to look after another table.  Looking around the restaurant, the staff that we saw were in hyperdrive moving around from table to table, clearing plates and pouring glasses of wine.  I was a bit worried that we'd have to wait ages before we could place our order, and we did wait a bit, but thankfully not an uncomfortably long time.

I was surprised by the La Via menu, which was not really that extensive.  It had a dozen pizzas on offer as well as about half a dozen main courses, but somehow didn't look that comprehensive.  It really didn't matter so much to me, there were quite a few options that I'd have happily munched, but I was torn between pizza and mains.  It was a bit of a conundrum, one that I solved by ordering both!

After some coaxing, I managed to convince SC to share a margherita classica pizza with me, although it was a little more difficult than I thought it would be.  I had pretty low expectations when ordering the pizza, sure I hoped for a good pizza, but I wasn't prepared for what was presented.  It was awesome!  The margherita was just about perfect, with a beautifully crispy base covered in a wonderfully bright red sauce, dollops of creamy white mozzarella cheese and the bright green of the basil leaves.  The tri colours of the Italian flag were on display and the La Via margherita would have been at home in any top pizza place in the known world!  I was pretty happy that SC only wanted a slice, it left more for me...

After a great starter of pizza, I really hoped that our mains would be just as good and help shatter our South Bank curse.  With a number of options that appealed, SC decided to crack on with the Queensland scampi with gnocchi romana, zucchini flowers and sugo cream.  This was a case of not really understanding what we were ordering, and learning a valuable lesson.  We didn't really know that gnocchi romana was in fact made from semolina and as a consequence, SC really didn't like the gnocchi at all - in fact after a couple of bites, she pretty much set it aside.  It was a shame really, the sugo sauce tasted wonderful, with a rich tomato flavour that would have been at home in any pasta dish.  What SC did love was the scampi, which were well cooked and also worked well with the sugo sauce.

It was a night of winning choices for me!  I'd taken a bit of a punt on the wild rabbit ragu with black truffle pappardelle and had picked an absolute stunner of a dish.  There was plenty of rabbit flesh mixed in with a perfectly al dente flat ribbon pasta, covered in fresh cheese and basil leaves.  The beautiful tomato based sauce really enhanced the flavour of the rabbit, which sometimes can be tough and lacking in flavour, but was rich and tender and just beautiful.  I'm not normally able to eat a whole bowl of pasta but had no trouble scoffing the lot (apart from the sympathy bites I gave to SC).  I thought that the rustic circular bowl that the pasta came in was ideal for the equally rustic and delightful pappardelle.  One small criticism was that I didn't really get much truffle flavour shining through, but I din't really think the dish needed it.

I was pretty full from eating most of a pizza and a big bowl of pasta, but I was determined to crack on with a dessert, hoping that it would be a trifecta of delicious dishes.  SC was a little disillusioned with her main and didn't really feel like anything else, but our waitress placed a spoon in front of her regardless.  With a couple of delicious looking desserts on offer, I went for the more traditional panna cotta to finish off the meal.  The dessert was called 'my grandfathers honey panna cotta with lindt dark chocolate calzone and strawberry'.  It was another wow moment.  Not only did the panna cotta dish look amazing, it was just about perfect in every way.  With a perfect consistency and a sweet, yet subtle taste of honey, the panna cotta worked beautifully with the dark chocolate from the calzone.  What I loved most though was the dehydrated strawberry that was amazing with the honey flavoured dessert.

It was a completely unexpected yet delightful meal.  Not having the highest of expectations probably helped, but my selections at La Via were genuinely superb.  It's also interesting that two people sharing a meal could have such different experiences, with SC not at all enjoying her gnocchi.  It's such a crucial thing to do when going to a restaurant, order the right meal.  Sometimes what looks good on paper just doesn't suit your palate.  

There was quite the buzz at La Via, with pretty regular turn over of diners in the short time that we were there.  The wait staff did a brilliant job of keeping the room moving.  We didn't really spend too much time with the wait staff to get a feel for how friendly they were, but there seemed to be lots of Italian accents around the place, which added the feel of an authentic busy 'Italian ristorante'.

I'd definitely head back to La Via for pizza.  The margherita that I had was as good as anywhere in Brisbane, perhaps still not taking the number one spot from Beccofino (in my mind), but certainly a pizza that I'd enjoy eating any time.

It had been such a busy day for us, especially with the need to keep our apartment clean and ready for some inspections the following day.  So busy in fact that I'd forgotten something, something really important.

At 9:30pm I'd received a text from a mate. 'Where are you?'

It was one of those 'oh shit' moments.  Time stood still and I broke out into a cold sweat.  It was a mates 50th birthday party.  I had some making up to do.....

Really, really good pizza - crispy base, great flavour and tasty mozzarella - bliss
The wild rabbit papardelle was sensational - tasty, almost beyond belief
Three for three, my dessert was beautiful and delicious

La Via on UrbanspoonLa Via


  1. I would be so torn between the gnocchi and the ragu, so I guess would have to try both! awesome!

    1. haha - Andrea, a good reason to go back a few times!!


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