Roman empire: Pure Italian's soulful decor. Photo: Ken Irwin
WHERE AND WHAT
Tucked into a Balwyn shopping strip east of Burke Road, Pure Italian is no well-kept neighbourhood secret. It's crammed - deservedly - with customers who flock for the authentic Italian food and like-you're-in-Rome ambience of the family-run operation. Two generations of the Sciarpa family call orders in their native tongue, the coffee's strong, and there's no stinting on the casareccia. This is what Pellegrini's would be like, if it grew up and moved to the suburbs.
The antipasti selection makes a fine meal. Photo: Ken Irwin
WHERE TO SIT
Pure Italian has soul, with a deceptive patina of age (it opened in 2010 but looks like it could be 50 years older) channelled via a timber-floored room busy with a pleasant mish-mash of chairs and tables and a maximalist approach to decoration. Black and white photographs, old posters, bric-a-brac and the odd guitar mix it with shelves of take-home produce.
There's no alcohol on the list but you can BYO wine for $5 corkage a bottle. Coffee is by Caffe Romeo, there are freshly squeezed juices, including blood orange, and fizzy drinks including chinotta and aranciata rossa. And coconut water, too - even the Italians aren't immune to its trendiness.
The Pure Italian day starts at breakfast with baked polenta and eggs skewed to the theme with proper Italian smallgoods. The lunch menu's on the blackboard but you might want to start with the antipasti selection at the counter, which has marinated artichoke hearts and prosciutto, bocconcini and olives and more than a dozen other things that together could make a fine meal. Chef-owner Carlo Sciarpa's past in the kitchens of Caffe e Cucina shines through in his excellent fried calamari with balsamic mayo, and his pasta's none too shabby either - a soulful bowl of casareccia comes in a gorgeously silken yellow tomato passata with ricotta and fried sage leaves. Bigger dishes sound like old friends: chicken cacciatore with garlic and rosemary potatoes, or veal involtini with ricotta-stuffed peppers. Desserts range from a reliably authentic tiramisu to a nicely crumbly hazelnut and chocolate cake.
Lots of Italians and locals, and families popping in to get dinner.
Good, heart-warming Italian food in a setting that's pure(ly) Italian.
- 03 9857 3961
- Cuisine - Italian
- Features - BYO, Family friendly
- Chef(s) - Carlo Sciarpa
- Owners - Carlo Sciarpa
- Opening Hours - Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30am-4pm.
- Author - Larissa Dubecki