Entering Ristorante La Famiglia is like walking into the Italian home you never had. The open-plan restaurant is bright, modern and cosy all at the same time – not what you’d expect from a restaurant serving traditional Italian dishes.
Owner Cosimo de Nichilo greets us and steers us towards a booth with views of the bar, the open kitchen, Woolloongabba’s Stanley Street and the Gabba stadium across the street.
As we peruse the menu, Cosimo brings my guest and I an Aperol Spritz each – the perfect way to kick off a long Friday lunch and just what we needed ahead of the arduous task of deciding what to eat. When asked what dishes would give us a true taste of La Famiglia, Cosimo told us stories of his hometown of Puglia, in southern Italy, and how the menu gives a modern twist to his mother’s traditional recipes. In a city that holds a lot of Italian restaurants, clearly La Famiglia isn’t pretending to be something it’s not.
The helpful and enthusiastic waiter brings zucchine gratinate as our first dish. The zucchini arrives halved and warm, but not too soft. It’s filled with salty parmesan and breadcrumbs, lightly grilled, and finished with a parsley crisp and salsa verde.
Then peperoni ripieni al forno (Italian meatloaf encased in a soft capsicum). The roasted capsicum is balanced pleasantly by the saltiness of the peperoni, mozzarella and prosciutto and is served with a vegetable sugo (sauce). The bright orange sugo is unlike anything I’d tasted or seen before. Cosimo explains that the thin sauce is made from the juices of a medley of roasted vegetables. The result is a flavour bomb.
Next our main of orecchiette with broccoli leaves and pancetta arrives. As a traditional dish from the Puglia region, it was hard to go past this dish and I’m glad we didn’t skip it. The pasta was served in a broth-like sauce and the hint of chilli pinched the tongue with every bite.
Finally, the dish I’d been waiting for arrives: La Porchetta. The oven-roasted pork belly roll is filled with pancetta, sage, parmesan and bread, and served with a sweet potato and apple purée, sautéed greens and homemade veal jus. The meat is succulent, the crackle is crunchy and the stuffing is buttery, simple and delicious.
Keeping it simple, the way Italians do, is what La Famiglia have done so well. Every dish highlights and respects each ingredient in a way that is authentic and faithful to the flavours of southern Italy.
It’s not just the food, but the personality of La Famiglia that will see me back there with my family and friends in tow.
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