Ciao Italia is a very popular restaurant on Mill Point Road in southern Perth. It is not a very big place and does not accommodate a lot of tables. And there is always a long queue. On weekends, according to KG, the wait can be as long as 2 hours. To queue 2 hours for a table - the food must be good. We passed by the place a number of times before we finally went there to eat. The queue was typically like this...
We were there on a Thursday evening. We were a bit kiasu and arrived there very early - about 5.00 pm. I have never been for dinner so darn early. But we were not willing to queue. We were in fact the first in the restaurant that day. We were greeted by a friendly Italian guy. He apparently had been in Indonesia for some years and spoke passable Bahasa. When we told him that we were still waiting for someone (KG, who could only join us after his work), he was reluctant to give us a table. But after some small talks with him in Bahasa, he relented and showed us a nice table for 6. He later even posed for me and gave me free rein take pictures of the restaurant.
The restaurant is modestly furnished. There is a large counter and enclosure in the middle. And an even larger kitchen at the back. I thought they could had better utilized the space to create more room for dining tables since they are so very popular.
We settled into our table, but held back ordering of food while waiting for KG. When he finally arrived, the waiter gave him a "ma-ma-mia" as we were actually hoarding value table time. As we waited, the restaurant started to fill up rapidly. In no time, there was a queue outside.
We started the meal sharing a tiramisu. Most out of the ordinary. It was Kathy's (Crystal's Aussie friend) dining oddity. She likes to start her meals with something sweet. The tiramisu was absolutely fabulous. It was soft, creamy and the flavor was superb. Like I mentioned in my previous posting, the Aussies make great cakes and pastries. This was better than great.
Then the serious eating began. The first to arrive on our table was the pizza. We had the Toscana. It had Italian sausage, grilled capsicum, sun-dried tomato and the normal Mozzarella cheese. The pizza was simply beyond words. Perhaps the best pizza I ever had. Take a look at the visual. You can see the delicious-ness. This was the first time I had sun-dried tomato. Never even heard of it before. The desiccated tomato was so very nice. It was slightly chewy but the texture and flavor was marvelous.
Did the Caesar Salad originate from Italy? Julius was definitely Italian - i.e. if at all this salad was named after him. In any case, the Caesar Salad at Ciao Italia was excellent. It was a very fresh plate of salad with croutons, anchovies, a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, flavored with olive oil, wine vinegar and a nice (I don't know what) white sauce. It was a most genuine plate of salad.
We also shared a Bistecca Alla Trevi. It was a steak, cooked medium rare, served with bacon, mushroom and mixed vegetables in a creamy black pepper sauce. The dish was heavenly. The meat was tender and the sauce was creamy and absolutely delicious. It was easily one of the best steak I ever had. It is meat like this that makes people want to queue for 2 hours. Total unconditional compliments to the chef.
The next dish was a little behind the rest. It was Gnocchi ala Bolognese. It was a dumpling-like pasta cooked in a tomato based sauce with minced beef. This was another first-timer for me. I had never tasted gnocchi, and I didn't quite like the texture. I found the pasta rather starchy. The bolognese, compared to all the other good dishes we had, was rather ordinary.
The next pasta we had was a totally different story. It was the Fettuccine Ciao Italia. It was the signature pasta dish of the restaurant and apparent also the most popular. And I could see why. It was served in a rich creamy sauce, with strips of chicken (free range, according to the menu) and sun-dried tomato. The fettuccine was great. The texture was perfect. I have never been able to cook pasta to this kind of texture. I wonder what the secret is.
For dessert we revisited the tiramisu and a bowl of strawberry ice cream. These together with a nice cup of long black coffee, ended a most gratifying meal.
It was just turning dark when we finished our dinner. As we walked away from the restaurant, I could not resist taking a parting shot of the people who were still waiting for a table.
I don't know how long they had to wait. But I didn't feel sorry for them; for just as the best part of our evening was over, theirs was yet to come.