When I lived in South Perth, I was amazed at the long line of 20 somethings queuing outside Ciao Italia everyday, waiting for it to open.
Their food must be out of this world I thought, or maybe there’s a student discount or perhaps they’re handing out free copies of Silvio Berlusconi’s biography.
This middle-class, edge-of-your-seat mystery was never solved as I didn’t end up eating there and soon moved out of the suburb.
Fast forward 10 years and I spotted a Ciao Italia Express in Myaree – now I could finally sink my chompers into their food.
Their takeaway menu had a massive range of pizza, pasta, risotto, chicken, seafood and desserts.
I was especially impressed by the pasta which included more esoteric dishes like Vongole (baby clams), Salerno (prawn-based), Buongustaia (fresh Italian sausage) and even Vodka pasta (including bacon, vodka, fresh tomato and cream).
I wonder how many people have phoned up and asked if it’s Russian vodka?
The meat, chicken and seafood section didn’t disappoint either with the likes of Saltimbocca Alla Romana Meat (pork tenderloins), Pollo Marsala, and Cozze Pescatora (chilli mussels).
Despite a little voice in my head telling me not to, I decided to order my favourite – marinara pasta ($25). I’ve never had a top-notch takeaway marinara (I think it needs to be eaten straight away after coming out the kitchen) and unfortunately this one didn’t break with tradition.
There was plenty of large, juicy prawns but some of the mussels were a bit on the small side and it could have done with some more calamari and fish.
The tomato sugo was tasty and pleasant, but it didn’t have that intense depth of flavour I was looking for.
The highlight was the beautifully cooked spaghetti, which was al dente and super light.
If the marinara was a bit underwhelming, my wife’s primavera pasta ($22) was outstanding.
“The combination of spinach, mushroom, tomato and cream is divine,” she said.
“Throw in some ricotta and sun-dried tomatoes, and you have a rich and decadent dish.
“The olives are quite strong tasting and may not be to everyone’s liking.”
You could choose what pasta you wanted with each dish and my wife went for rigatoni, which was “perfectly cooked”.
Across the table, Bamm-Bamm and Pebbles, I mean my young kids, were demolishing their 13” Margherita pizza ($21.50) with no basil.
I had a sneaky taste and can confirm it had that beautiful wood-fired flavour, authentic stringy mozzarella cheese and thin crispy base. Delicious.
Ciao Italia Express’s pasta dishes were huge and great value for money (we had the remaining half for dinner the next night).
Two of the three dishes were top-notch and I finally got a gist of what compelled young people to queue in the baking heat 10 years ago in South Perth.
No sign of Silvio Berlusconi’s biography though, but maybe some things are better left in the wood-fired oven…
Ciao Italia Express
17a Marshall Rd, Myaree
by STEPHEN POLLOCK