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Food Orgasm: Aperitivo

If Australia and Italy decided to get married, they would throw the reception at Leichardt’s Aperitivo, a modern wine, tapas and pizza bar that makes a fabulously standout addition to the delectable Norton Street. This is where you will find Italy in the 21st century, complete with a modern, minimalist décor and a friendly young Italian-blooded owner, who does a mighty fine job of embodying the hospitable charm of Italian grandmothers everywhere.

After spending eight years in the IT industry (with frequent trips to the motherland) Giuseppe Zagari followed his passion for drinking and eating, Italian-style, and brought it with him to Aperitivo, a term that actually stands for the popular Italian tradition of sharing small plates with friends. And just as it is in the country the custom is famous in, the experience is relaxed, casual and unassuming – you can well and truly leave the pretention with the hipsters in Surry Hills. I mean, at the front door.

“The concept of Aperitivo is a way of life in Italy. I loved the fact that people would socialise and catch up with friends by ending the day’s work with an Aperitivo. Australians are so tied up with their work that ‘work & life balance’ is almost nonexistent now,” explains Giuseppe.

Upon being given the menus to peruse by your friendly waitstaff, you are definitely spoiled for choice and making the decision may have to come down to a case of eeni meeni minee mo. This is fine, as it is guaranteed that something scrumptious will land in front of you. My partner and I started with the Bocconcini de Pollo, which translates to chicken bites served with capsicum sauce, and the Tonno, herb crust yellow fin tuna served with watermelon and baby cress salad with wasabi dressing. Now is about the time that your mouth should be starting to water, and yes, both options were as yummy as they sounded. The chicken was a great twist on a classic dish, while the flavours in the salad complemented each other to perfection.

Being the pigs that we are, we carried on. We were next served a dish of pan fried crumbed eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and basil, otherwise known as Orgasm. The proper term was in fact Melanzane, but what does that matter? We just call it like it is. It was by far one of our favourite starters, and the Risotto that came out afterwards – which was just that, risotto, infused with lavender and served with crispy skin rock perch – was one of the most satisfying risotto dishes I have ever eaten and I REALLY wish it was in front of me now. We topped it off with Norma, a woodfired pizza with tomato, basil, olive oil, eggplant and ricotta salsa. Yes, there were only 2 of us, and no, we were not pregnant with quadruplets, but you try resisting that menu. IT’S HARD. Although we may have felt a little sick from overeating that night, boy, that pizza was worth it. It made us really, really happy. The only real regret we have is that we didn't save room for dessert. If we had tried we would have most likely exploded. Sigh. We should have tried anyway.

The menu is so atypical of your everyday Italian restaurant and yet, when you go to Italy, you’ll find that it is oh so Italian. As Giussepe explains, “What many people don’t realise is that Italians don’t just eat Spaghetti Bolognese and Pasta Carbonara. There is a fusion of ingredients from different regions found in many restaurants in Italy also. With Australia being a multicultural society, there was no better place to promote the fusion than here. Aperitivo’s chefs have trained in many countries, and it is through their experience with different ingredients that we can bring them all together and put them on a plate.”

When there is a Seema Duggal in a restaurant, there is most certainly alcohol in front of her, and oh, there were some incredible cocktails at Aperitivo to put in front of her. I’ll stop speaking in third person now. I had a few and I can’t remember them but I do remember they tasted incredible and got me suitably intoxicated. They all look and sound amazing, and this is because they taste that way. I promise.

Situated in a large, multi-level venue, Aperitivo is the ideal spot to throw a big party or to enjoy an eating experience with a buzzing atmosphere. Wine is a predominant theme throughout the space, with glasses ready to be topped up on every table and a massive wine rack that will inspire you with all sorts of ideas on how to spend the evening. The space boasts fantastic subtle wall features with non-fussy (sic) lighting and interiors, which turns the focus where it should be – on the marvelous food and beverages there are to enjoy.

Aperitivo is open from Tuesday through to Saturday from 5.00 – 12.00am, and Sunday from 5.00pm – 10.00pm. It’s on 163 Norton Street, Leichhardt.

For bookings phone 02 9564 0003, or ema1il

Giuseppe Zagari

words: Seema Duggal


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