WE arrived at il Ciao just in time to nab the last table.
Every other seat in the restaurant was taken while the “Netflix and chill” crowd filled the takeaway area.
It didn’t take long for a queue to build, which eventually snaked through the restaurant and into the carpark, where hungry punters waited in the pouring rain to get their il Ciao fix.
According to our waiter, this happens almost every night.
il Ciao wears its heart on its sleeve. Everyone is met with the standard of service you’d expect at a casual Italian cucina – and there’s no shortage of small talk about family and footy.
Adorning the walls are worn maps of Italy and Rome, AFL footballs and other memorabilia signed by famous diners.
The place was bursting with energy and the quality of food was magic.
If I had my choice I would have ordered the Italian sausage and chilli pizza ($26), but to keep the kids happy we ordered their favourite, the Rustica ($24.50).
It comes with rich tomato sauce, stringy mozzarella, tasty slices of leg ham and sweet pineapple.
The pizza was fresh out of the woodfired oven; steaming hot, packed with ingredients and full of flavour. Molto buona!
The Picattini al Limone ($30) is an impressive, aromatic dish.
A generous portion of juicy, pork fillet medallions are served with fresh lemon slices that complement the lean and tender meat.
The accompanying chardonnay sauce is thick and deliciously oily, while the side dish of carrots and zucchini where cooked al dente, adding crunch and texture to the dish.
All the other mains sounded delicious, but we couldn’t leave without trying the pasta.
Penne with vodka sauce ($25), ravioli stuffed with braised beef ($28.50) and gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce ($27) were all tempting, but we settled on the tortellini ($27).
It’s a mammoth serving of pasta filled with sweet, mouthwatering veal.
The ring-shaped pasta was swimming in a creamy garlic, herb and mushroom sauce, which I mopped up with the crunchy, leftover pizza crusts my kids didn’t want to eat. Amazing.
There’s a culinary crisis in Perth at the moment with every second restaurant feeling the pressure of a weakened economy, but you wouldn’t know it on a Saturday night at il Ciao.
This well-established Applecross institution could teach other restaurants a thing or two about satisfying their most precious asset – its customers.
Get there early.
by MATTHEW EELES
771A Canning Highway, Applecross