Best of Brisbane's Italian

Just like a big mama who wraps you in her arms and plants a kiss on your cheek, Italian food is full of flavour and deeply satisfying to the soul. 

My first memory of eating Italian in Brisbane was as a child dining out with my parents at a place called Mamma Lugi’s.  I remember sitting at long trestle tables in what felt like the backyard of someone’s house in Spring Hill.  The tables would be overfilled with huge bowls of spaghetti and salads. It was the early 70s and this was adventurous dining for Brisbane.

My mother tells me that in Brisbane’s early restaurant days there were many more French than Italian restaurants. Do you remember any others from the old days?

Italian migration to Brisbane has not been as strong as in southern states but we’ve still had our fair share of new comers opening a restaurant to share their recipes and food from home.

From the accented kitchen banter to the family memorabilia on the walls, the Italian roots at New Farm’s Dell Ugo shine strongly with generations of the Robertiello family in charge. Expect tender braised baby octopus, melt-in-the-mouth potato gnocchi with smoked mushrooms, slowly braised lamb shank with mash and plenty of tiramisu or pannacotta.

Also at New Farm, The Vine is another family run establishment with plenty of traditional favourites on the menu. Their amazingly tender gnocchi sticks in my memory.

Traditional Italian interpreted with style stars on Vio’s menu at Paddington. Head Chef Fabio Moranti picks produce daily from the markets for treats including asparagus with truffle pecorino zabaglione or wild boar sourced from the Granite Belt with a cocoa ragu and toasted chestnut. Finish with a Moscato poached pear.

The process of Italians moving to Brisbane and opening a restaurant is still happening today.
Colle Rosso, a traditional family trattoria which opened late last year, is owned and operated by two couples - David and Laura (both from Rome) and Marco (from Sardinia) and Lisa (a Brisbane local of Italian heritage), who together have more than 30 years of experience in hospitality.

Busy even mid-week, the restaurant is often filled with locals dining as couples but also larger groups sporting distinct Italian accents.

Colle Rosso, is Italian for Red Hill, and ticks all my boxes with its well-priced, flavoursome, authentic Italian food made and served with love.

While Italian cuisine is steeped in tradition, there’s nothing stopping experimentation at Italian themed restaurants in Brisbane and the results are mouth-watering.

Modern Italian rules at Bucci with interpretations of the traditional that would make any Nona proud. New on the scene, Bucci has established a strong following with ease and it’s not hard to work out why. Think porcini and field mushroom risotto balls filled with taleggio; marinated 24-36 month old parmigiano reggiano with lemon thyme honey, balsamic and grissini or crispy Bangalow pork belly salad, apples, hazelnuts and garden greens.

Today Italian doesn’t always equal pasta and if you’re eager for a pasta pig out, Popolo will leave you wanting.  This Italian restaurant shies away from pasta to deliver a menu filled with meatballs, gnocchi, oh-so-tender suckling pig, thin pizza and a fig and frangipane tart with vanilla marscapone to finish. It’s delish food with a kick ass river view.

And who would have believed that Westfield Carindale would be the perfect home for a slick new Italian restaurant with a $1.5 million fit out? Enter Tony Di Vincenzo, a first generation Aussie with a passion for great food and shared dining and gun chef Trent Robson, ex Pier Nine, 1899 Enoteca, Belle Epoque and Pescatore with Gallery One, a restaurant concept that could have been lifted from any of Brisbane's innovative restaurant dining precincts.

Here you’ll find authentic Italian cuisine and crisp based pizzas plus a six metre long refrigerated cabinet groaning with pasticceria, tortes and patiserrie ready to go or served with a cappuccino made with their own hand crafted special blend of quality Arabica beans. 

The chef’s table is another new way to enjoy the Italian meal experience. Ever wondered what it would be like to dine at a chef's home, sitting at their table to enjoy whatever they felt like cooking on the night?

Instead of agonising over menu choices you would be free to enjoy conversation while food flows to the table on share plates for everyone to pass around and taste.

Now just change the location and put your dinner party in Tartufo for Tony Peruoco's Chef's Table and you have a matching experience. Tony is your host for the night, inquiring whether you have any dietary issues or preferences and checking how the night is going as you progress through the courses.

He cooks the food he grew up with, using seasonally fresh local produce except for the Italian olives and parmesan cheese which says Australians just don't make with the same flavours.

Expect arancini balls made to Tony's mother's recipe, local calamari flash fried for five minutes, braised veal that was his childhood favourite and other recipes gleefully stolen from his brother.

One of the best things about this chef's table is the food just keeps coming.  Tony has set the price at $50 per person with a minimum of six people to a table.  It looks pretty good value to me.

Take your taste buds on trip through Italy’s cobblestone alleyways with dishes that delight from these Brisbane restaurants as well:

•    Il Centro, CBD
•    Mario at the Diningroom, Hendra
•    Mariosarti, Toowong
•    Il Posto, Paddinton
•    Grappino, Paddington
•    Bar Alto, New Farm
•    1889 Enoteca, Wooloongabba
•    Gusto da Gianni, Portside

Plus my Facebook followers love these additional Brisbane Italian restaurants

Beccofino, Teneriffe
Paolo’s, Suncorp Stadium, Paddington
Viale Canova, Clayfield
Marina, Paddington
Gerties, New Farm
The Rustic Olive, Redcliffe

Disclaimer:  Ed+bK has eaten at some of these restaurants as a guest.  Full disclosure details are included on individual blog posts.