WHENEVER I’m asked for a recommendation for a special occasion dinner in Fremantle it’s La Sosta hands down.
The restaurant expanded upstairs recently, making way for baby brother Bottega, owned by the same Italian foodies, to open up as a licensed cafe downstairs.
The menu’s as different as chalk and cheese, but the food is every bit as good.
Huge cheese wheels decorate a rear wall and a mouthwatering array of salamis hanging from butchers hooks add to the Italian deli feel.
They’re for sale, along with in-house jams, conserves and fresh and dried pasta: “Bottega means an old-style Italian deli,” co-owner Matteo Musetti says.
You’ll also find loaves of wonderfully chewy sourdough bread, made in-house, to eat in or take home: “You can come in for a simple lunch, homemade bread and wine,” Mr Musetti says.
When a colleague and I dropped in recently sensory overload stopped us in our tracks.
The cabinet was a feast of savouries, while the “dolce” display was an art exhibition of gorgeous cakes; including one with a perky red-cap mushroom on the top.
“Pauline, our pastry chef, she likes to make things that are nice looking,” Mr Musetti says with un-Italian-like understatement.
Simone the manager is a coffee master, who searched for just the right blend: “Looking into what works better for us,” he says.
The waiter was patient and helpful as we agonised over ordering, but eventually I went for the eggplant parmigiana ($6.50) and a beetroot salad.
My companion, a hearty eater, ordered the veal cutlet ($12) and a kale salad ($18.90), which is on the breakfast menu and comes with poached eggs and sourdough bread.
My parmi was rich and cheesy, its moist tomato flavours making a dressing on the salad redundant.
A mix of shoestrings of beet and carrot, pine nuts, flaked almonds and sultanas, the salad was a great accompaniment to the flavour-packed eggplant.
My mate’s veal was a tad disappointing, the thick crumbed casing spoiling the delicacy of the meat.
But her kale salad more than made up for it, the huge portion packing a real punch thanks to its deliciously oily dressing, and the oyster mushrooms in the dish which, smothered in garlic and pecorino cheese, were a taste explosion par excellence.
The cakes’ ($7.50) outer beauty was matched by an inner deliciousness, including one with the layer of pistachio, raspberry and chocolate sprinkled with gold dust.
And the coffee was flavoursome and robust, with nary a hint of bitterness.
by JENNY D’ANGER
87 Market Street, Fremantle
open 7 days 6.30am–6pm