by JENNY D’ANGER:
Fremantle’s Street Arts festival was over but the cappuccino strip was still closed to all but foot traffic, and the atmosphere was very European.
Kids were playing in the street, watched over by parents sipping coffee or eating a late lunch, while couples young and old wandered by hand-in-hand.
A shame the street can’t be closed to traffic and opened to people more often, my dining companion and I lamented, from our window box-seat at Tabella.
The cafe/restaurant added to the European ambience of the scene with its very relaxed Italian look and feel.
Instead of tablecloths the formica tables have brown paper “runners”, on which kids are encouraged to draw pictures—with pencils provided.
It’s an idea owners Enzo Antonelli, and life partner Tanya Witheridge, brought with them from their Tasmanian restaurant, where it wasn’t just kids writing on the tables.
Some cheeky sorts left phone numbers for the cute male waiters.
“For one waiter, this is how he met his wife,” Ms Witheridge says.
The menu is a mix of old favourites and a range of dishes that reflect the diversity of Italian cooking says chef Angelo Bruno, who honed his cooking skills in classy Italian restaurants in Germany and Spain.
So while you’ll find spaghetti con polpette (spag and meatballs $24.50, kids’ $10) you’ll also find mouth-watering delights such as maltagliati di anatra ($27), a dish of hand-torn pasta (which just means misshapen) with a ragu of slow-cooked duck.
When the owners moved to Fremantle some of the staff moved with them, which says a lot about the boss/worker relationship, and perhaps explains why the staff are so friendly and efficient—so much so you’d think they had shares in the place.
We were there for a late lunch/early dinner (linner or dunch?). An order of warm crusty bread, baked on the premises, was dipped into olive oil and balsamic vinegar as we took in the street scene and waited for our meal.
I’d ordered the crespelle ai fungi ($24), which arrived in a piping hot dish sitting on a slab of slate.
Starting at the side I was enjoying the flavour of the soft crepes, smothered in béchamel sauce with parmesan and slightly crisp on the edge, when I hit the motherlode of mushrooms and my taste buds danced with delight.
The delightful Dave rarely dances but he does love whitebait. And with Tabella happy to upsize the entree ($16.50) into a main he was in seventh heaven, although he did feel a little more herby zing would have added to the dish.
That said, proving you can take the boy out of England but can’t take England out of the boy, he was soon making whitebait sarnies with the remnants of the crusty bread.
All cakes are made on the premises by Ms Witheridge (who also makes the gnocchi).
The assortment was staggering, from tiramisu ($12.50) and sticky date pudding ($11) to a flour-less chocolate cake. Feeling somewhat full, we opted to share an orange syrup cake ($10).
A liberal dousing of orange sauce ensured the polenta-based cake was moist and sharp—and it was so big we couldn’t finish it between us.
Tabella is licensed: Manager Ben Lincoln is one of those who came across from Tassie, bringing his wealth of wine knowledge to “beef up” the wine list.
There’s also an array of cocktails, that’s set to grow as the eatery finds its feet. And just a year in, I’d say that won’t be much longer.
by JENNY D’ANGER
7 South Terrace, Fremantle
open 7 days lunch and
dinner and breakfast weekends