When I think of Italian food, I think of sitting at a large table laden with plate after plate of beautiful but simple fare cooked well and with love. With an Italian sister-in-law and a scattering of Italian ex boyfriends, I’m no stranger to enjoying such feasts, but it had been a while, so I was most excited to receive an invitation to join Ingrid Langtry and Sean Kierce the engaging and friendly owner operators of Ladro at their Greville St table to try the new dishes from the new chef, Niko Pizzimenti.
I think I owe Sean an apology, being seated next to him I think I spent nearly as much time chewing his ear as I did the generous repast. I learnt a lot from doing this. After opening Greville St, they oscillated between matching the offering at Gertrude St and being different. In the time that has passed they have learnt much about their two neighbourhoods and recognise that each location is unique and calls for different things but also acknowledge that there are some “Ladro” qualities and dishes that need to stay the same across both restaurants. This is reflected both in the design, which was a hands on project for former industrial designers Ingrid and Sean, and in the menu.
Yes, the menu. My invitation suggested that there would be three courses. In true Italian style each course was a multitude of of dishes. So let’s start at the beginning.
Cerignola olives stuffed with pork+veal, crumbed + fried
Prosciutto Di San Daniele Riserva
rockmelon preserve, fig vincotto, Sardinian flat bread
shallots,walnut, chard, horseradish, orange oil
cold smoked buffalo milk mozzarella with grissini and
extra virgin olive oil
calamari fritti gluten free with garlic + lime aioli
Moreton Bay Bug aka…Cicale
Moreton Bay bug char grilled with crustacean Tuscan style
tomato + bread soup
Yes, that was just the beginning. I probably could have stopped there and wandered home a very happy soul, but that is not the Italian way and when in Rome (sorry, when at Ladro…) Chef Niko Pizzimenti has embraced the sourcing of the majority of ingredients locally and aligns strongly with Ladro’s philosophy of simple cooking with the highest quality of ingredients. Most of his influences come from the recipes and flavours of his Sicilian hometown and family, and it’s these elements that inform his refresh of the Ladro menu.
Now that our appetites are warmed up, it’s time for what many will first think of when Ladro comes to mind – pizza. Three pizzas were brought out, all delicious. I think I was leaning toward the Boscaiola – the earthiness of the mushrooms captured my tastebuds.
tomato, bufala, basil
fior di latte, porcini, field mushrooms, thyme, basil
tomato, fior di latte, parmigiano and Prosciutto
Somehow I managed to find some restraint and leave room for the pasta, and it is most fortunate that I did because if I ate nothing else that day I would have been glad it was the next dish, the basil tortellini. My favourite seafood, my favourite herb brought together in a silky smooth amazing mouthful. All the pasta at Ladro is now hand made daily by Zia Piera. This wonderful donna has been making pasta since she can remember and has recently come to Australia from Italy.
filled with blue swimmer crab, basil, cherry tomatoes
veal and baby artichoke ragu, pecorino pepato
Gnocchi Al Forno
“Alla Sorrentina” San Marzano sugo, bufala, parmigiano,
My photos do not do this glorious repast justice, and I haven’t shown you the desserts. I was too busy eating to get out my camera and resorted to my phone instead. However, I have every intention of returning with friends and camera in hand to revisit this excellent experience.
They breed them well in Sicily, in the small village of San Vito lo capo to be precise – home to approximately 3,000 people and famous for its curvaceous coastline, rustic windmills, thriving fishing trade and Niko. A chef that I think understands food and his clientele.
“There is nothing better than putting your heart and soul into a dish and someone walks by the pass and says that meal was amazing. Not many people can understand what that means to a chef,” says Niko.
Niko – our dinner was amazing. Grazie mille!!