Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: Maretti Caffe Cucina

I have wanted to get to Maretti for months and months, ever since I interviewed the owner and learnt he wakes before the crows every morning to make his own desserts and pasta. Now that's a dedication I wanted to taste.

We arrived at the restaurant amid the usual Continental kerfuffle, eventually got weeded out from the departing crowd and shown to our seats. It was warm and loud, with a pleasant contemporary design fit-out, well-spaced tables and an all-Italian waitstaff. While we waited for our meals, we did a little Botox-watching among the well-heeled crowd. The only measure of age of some of the grand dames was their wizened husbands.

After having watched Matteo make some of his pasta - he must get through hundreds of eggs per week - I was desperate to try it. Sadly - and surprisingly - it was not offered as a primi piatti for dinner. No matter, we shared. Holy heck, if I'm ever offered a last meal I think this might be it. The spaghetti was al dente and - unlike
Viva - held its shape beautifully. Generous chunks of lobster and shredded crab were tossed through it and enhanced by a fantastically light tomato sauce. It's so rare these days to find a light pasta dish that is refreshing and doesn't leave you wishing you'd worn your elasticated pants. Between you and me, I so wish I hadn't shared.

For main, we went with a special of chargrilled squid and a panzanella salad. The squid was attractively served whole with sections of sundried tomatoes. It had the trademark smokey flavours throughout and was only slightly rubbery. The panzanella salad of sundried tomatoes, capers, capsicum, olives, bread and oil was a perfect foil, other than there being a slight sundried tomato overkill. The bread had been cut into squares and soaked in olive oil, giving the dish a little more depth than you would usually get with a salad. Again, both dishes were light and refreshing, and didn't leave us groaning.

However, they did leave us keen for the desserts, which seem to be practically all made with mountains of cream. By the time we got to the dessert case the chocolate mousse, pannacotta, creme brulee and nougat mousse had all been demolished and we were left with caramel mousse. No matter, it was a sensation of caramel folded into mountains of - you guessed it - cream and topped with crunchy toffee pieces. We offset this gluttony with a selection of home-made pastries that were excellent.

Well worth the trek to the Mosman Park burbs.

What we shared: spaghetti ai crostaci; chargrilled squid; panzanella salad; caramel mousse; selection of amaretti & pastries.


humanobserver said...

Yummy I guess.....

Tenina said...

OK...gotta go, Italian in a former life and can't pass up a homemade pasta...especially if I didn't 'homemake' it myself! :)

Jen said...

humanobserver - thanks, I guess..!

Tenina - I know, I'm such a pushover for home-made pasta too. It's a bit of a trip, but worth it!