A couple of years ago, I was walking past an empty shopfront in Castlereagh St in the city. There were two guys standing there and one said to the other, "I want to have a proper cafe here, run by real Italians". At the time, I wondered what 'real Italians' were, as opposed to, say, unreal ones. Obviously, the cafe never eventuated because it is now the site of the Faberge workshop. Maybe he couldn't find any real Italians to run it.
Anway, and this is where I'm heading... an Italian restaurant has opened in Balmain, on the site of a previous Italian restaurant. Fico Ristorante is run by the same owners as another restaurant in Five Dock, and they have the 'real Italian' thing down pat.
The restaurant takes advantage of the woodfired pizza oven that serviced the previous restaurant (Il Cortile) and the menu is fairly traditional with set sauces for each pasta, and 'no variations' on the pizzas. Excuse the fuzzy photos, it was pretty dark in there.
We started with fried zucchini flowers ($19) and beef carpaccio ($20) that was so thin and so soft that you didn't have to chew it.
Fiori - crusted zucchini flowers, anchovies, fior di latte, tomato and basil marmalade;
Carpaccio - thinly sliced beef, cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil
For mains, I had pappardelle with veal osso buco ($24) - melt in the mouth dreamy - while bf had Anatra duck ($34) with cannellini beans and cherries, which were an unusual taste combination.
Anatra - Slow-braised duck, spinach, cannellini beans, chilli-liqueur cherry
We finished with a long black for me ($4) and bf had Crespella ($14).
All up, the meal was great, though in the upper price range for this type of food.
They also do takeaway pizzas, which look good, judging by what was coming out of the pizza oven. And note the 'Real Italian Pizza' on the menu on the wall...!
Fico Ristorante is at 342 Darling St, Balmain, NSW.