Megan Johnston, Good Food.
July 14, 2012.
Italian food has always had style and, lately, the spaces in which you’ll find it have upped the cool factor as well. In the new crop of trattorie and ristoranti throughout the city, the gaudy frescoes and artificial ivy of yore have been replaced by designer fit-outs and crowds to match.
It’s not just in the inner city, either. Gigino, a new pizzeria in Fairfield West, oozes understated industrial chic. The owner, Attilio Labbozzetta, converted the small space from an old newsagency in February, decorating it with black walls, bench seats and a raw-brick counter.
Modern chandeliers dangle over long communal tables while metal stools perch by huge windows that look on to surrounding homes. Checked cushions and a blue-tiled splashback lend a touch of tradition.
The neighbourhood has special meaning to labbozzetta – he grew up here before stints overseas as a waiter and barman, and working the floor at Il Piave in Rozelle and Cipri Italian in Paddington. For a decade, Labbozzetta also co-owned two Italian restaurants in darling harbour – Vieri and Al Ponte – with former footballer Christian Vieri.
“I wanted to open up a funky, cool little suburban eatery – different to everything else out here”
The plan seems to be working. On a Saturday night the eatery is buzzing with family groups, a couple of girlfriends on one table and solo diners at the counter perches.
We choose a corner nook to suit the toddler in tow, who the chatty staff take to instantly.
The menu is pared back, with a focus on old-fashioned simplicity and home-style cooking. We start with golden-fried crumbled fingers of provolone and green olives filled with goat’s cheese. In bigger portions, they would be too rich, but with only a few morsels each, we still have plenty of appetite for the mains.
An ample chicken salad arrives in a bright yellow bowl – friend pieces of crispy golden chicken atop spinach leaves, baby tomato and bocconcini. It’s fresh, healthy and blessedly undressed. Instead bottles of virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt have been left on our table to use as liberally or sparingly as we like. It’s an obvious that’s easy yet clever.
The pizzas are unfussy, too – most list only three or four ingredients and are made by a pizza chef who honed his skills in Milan for eight years. We opt for the most elaborate – a capriciosa, which comes loaded with tomato, mozzarella, artichokes, anchovies, olives and capers. The toppings deliver a great salty hit, while the base is light and fluffy, with just enough crustiness.
Each slice goes down so easily, we consider scoffing another but self-restraint kicks in just in time for the arrival of the pork ribs, one of the “home cooked” specials Labbozzetta offers each night. The meat is tender and comes doused in a grainy, savoury tomato sauce with an oily base that’s perfect for a cold night.
To finish, we nab a tiramisu and stone fruit trifle from the quickly clearing dessert counter and then succumb to a Nutella pizza. Smeared in the gooey choc-hazelnut spread and covered in strawberry slices, it looks alarmingly sticky and sugary but actually tastes delicate, light and sweet. By sticking to an ultra simple recipe, Gigino offers many such uncomplicated pleasures.
Simple Italian fare with rustic, “home-cooked” theme.
Good. Starters, $6-$9; pizza, $16-$19; dessert, $6-$9.
Capricciosa pizza; pork ribs nightly special.
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