We dine early at Piccolo Trattoria, not because it’s a school night or we think it’s better for our digestion – five o’clock is the only time we can score a booking at the Shenton Park newbie. The incredibly popular Italian is already pumping before 6pm on a Thursday and we’re curious to see what the fuss is about.
The family business has already amassed a loyal following, after opening its doors just a few months ago. We’re greeted by chatty wait staff, who make us feel like old friends that have popped over for dinner. This is all part of trattoria-style dining. Trattorias are Italian-style eateries, known for being more casual than a restaurant and where bread is broken over hearty, home style meals.
The cosy dining room has a faint whiff of paint. We see that the small restaurant is being extended to accommodate more tables, which hopefully improves the odds of snaring a table in future! Italian singers croon in the background and the tables are covered with traditional red and white checked cloths. This could be a little twee, but it works here in the otherwise modern dining room, making the spot on the Nicolson Road strip feel homely and inviting.
The rustic menu is heavily influenced by hearty Sicilian cuisine, where Owner and Head Chef Carlo Collova’s parents originate from. It wouldn’t be much of an authentic trattoria without a menu brimming with antipasto and of course there’s pasta aplenty – even gluten free pasta for coeliacs.
This BYO restaurant is the perfect spot to bring along a favourite drop of wine from your collection. A good selection of soft drinks, tea and coffee are also on offer. A dish of salty marinated olives, finished with a squeeze of lemon juice, get our juices flowing.
My entrée, a melanzana parmigiana ($14) is ooey-gooey goodness. Grilled softened eggplant is layered with a rich tomato sauce, fresh basil and grana padano, a kind of parmesan cheese. The delicious dish is topped with even more fresh herbs, caper salsa and a rustic loaf for wiping up the lip-smacking sauce.
Plump polpette beef and pork meatballs ($14) are slowly cooked in a tomato sugo, topped with cheese, extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Chef dips his thick-cut bread into the sauce, it’s a soul-warming dish, just like Nonna makes.
For main, I choose the game-y goat chops ($38), having got a taste on a recent trip to Carnarvon, where goat is plentiful. The grilled baby goat chops are oozing with flavour, marinated in garlic, rosemary, fennel seeds and thyme. A crisp potato croquette and well-dressed Greek style salad, that’s brimming with chunks of tomato, cucumber and creamy goat’s feta are on the side.
Chef relishes the La Cotoletta Parmigiana ($38). A thin beef fillet schnitzel is coated in crumbs and pan friend, giving it a slightly charred crust. The tender meat is topped with a little tomato sauce, melted grana padano cheese and a generous amount of fresh basil leaves. On the side is a silky eggplant and tomato chutney, potato croquette, sautéed spinach, and a sweet and spicy pickled chili. Chef admits he’s not eaten beef schnitzel since the 1980s and thoroughly enjoys his trip down memory lane.
Chocolate torta ($14) has to be one of my favourite Italian sweets. Piccolo Trattoria’s version is a flourless chocolate almond cake, with roasted pistachios, a dark chocolate ganache, mixed berry compote and lashings of double cream. While the flavours are robust, I find the texture far too crumbly.
The rich and creamy mousse al cioccolato ($14) is divine. Decadent chocolate mousse is topped with mixed berry compote and a sprinkle of roasted pistachio.
There’s a lot to love about Piccolo Trattoria. The simple dishes are mouth-watering, making it much more than your average local Italian. Though they’re not reinventing the wheel, the kitchen is serving up well cooked Italian dishes with gusto, a bucket load of flavour and loads of heart. Welcome to the neighbourhood Piccolo Trattoria!
At a glance
■ Piccolo Trattoria
205 Nicholson Road
Phone 9382 1778
■ Opening times
Mon – Sat 5pm to late
value for money 4
■ style – Italian
■ wine – BYO wine and beer
■ Chef – Carlo Collova
■ Owner – Carlo Collova
■ feel – casual and cosy
■ wheelchair access – yes
■ cost –
Entrée – $4 to $39
Mains – $19 to $45
Dessert – $7 to $14
■ all in all – bookings are essential at
this new Shenton Park spot, where
the delicious Italian offerings are
far from average.