Il Locale

Natascha Mirosch
Serving comfort food staples: Il Locale Italian Restaurant in Rosalie, Brisbane.
Serving comfort food staples: Il Locale Italian Restaurant in Rosalie, Brisbane. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Rosalie Mews, 21 Nash Street Paddington, Queensland 4064

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Opening hours Wednesday-Sunday, 11am till 10pm
Features Family friendly, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone (07) 3368 2122

Il Locale ("the local") is the latest venue from restaurateurs Narelle and Mark Tognini. It's a pleasant space, tucked away at the car park end of a small Rosalie strip that was, until recently, occupied by another Italian eatery, Tomatos.

Entered via a pair of huge, rustic, carved doors, the room is light-filled thanks to chest height bi-fold windows. There's a wine wall, a bar where you can sit up and graze on spuntini ("snacks") while throwing back a few drinks, a share table beneath a chandelier of coloured glass cylinders as well as casual bentwood cafe chairs and tables. There's also al fresco dining on the patio. Black-and-white photos of Italian scenes and staff speaking to each other in Italian add notes of authenticity.

Like in Italy, bread, butter and olive oil are brought to the table as a gesture of hospitality. Overseas this can incur a "cover charge", but here it's complimentary. On the other hand, there have been rumblings over the $3 charge for unlimited home-filtered still or carbonated water. But consider the environmental benefits of filling a glass rather than buying plastic or glass bottles and it doesn't seem excessive. Otherwise, just stick to perfectly adequate, safe and free Brisbane tap water.

Ravioli al tartufo con burro e salvia: Truffle ricotta ravioli with sage burnt butter.
Ravioli al tartufo con burro e salvia: Truffle ricotta ravioli with sage burnt butter. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Il Locale's menu is based on trattoria-style comfort food staples, so there's much appeal but few surprises. The menu cherry-picks from all over Italy with a bias towards the richer and more familiar cuisine of the north.

The spuntini selection, which can be ordered as entrees or just a snack between lunch and dinner service, includes ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, olive and mozzarella arancini and veal and pork polpette in tomato sauce; all perfectly sized to graze on with a wine or two.

We decide on a salumi board of nduja (a spreadable salami from Calabria), with a gentle kick of heat, San Daniele Gran Riserva prosciutto, sweet and slightly nutty tasting, wagyu bresaola and fat-studded soppressa. The board is a generous size; with a little more bread, it's probably even enough for three. Accompaniments are caperberries, a little bowl of cooked, shelled broadbeans, pleasantly vinegary cornichons and some moreish thin rounds of fried bread.

Vitello Tonnato: Poached veal with potato and tuna fritters.
Vitello Tonnato: Poached veal with potato and tuna fritters. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

The Togninis, who also own Tognini's Cafe Deli in Milton and a trattoria at Spring Hill, have installed a wood-fired oven in their new restaurant, and on our first visit it was doing overtime with pizza after pizza passing us by. Not enamoured of the modern bastardisation of the noble pizza, we were relieved to see them all fairly traditional and expertly made with charry, bubbled, thin crust and just the right amount of good quality ingredients, as you'd expect from owners who also have a deli.

The wine list is well matched to the food, with a fair few Italian varietals and many offered by the glass and carafe.

As well as spuntini and pizza, the menu is traditionally organised into primo (mainly pasta and risotto), secondi and piatti da condividere (plates to share) such as a slow cooked lamb shoulder or a stuffed suckling pig, as well as vegetables and salad. There's a trio of children's meals too – spaghetti bolognaise, penne with meatballs and spaghetti with tomato sauce.

On our first visit, our tagliatelle with lamb ragu from the primo section turns out to be casarecce, a shorter, curled pasta shape rather than the flat ribbon tagliatelle, and while the pasta was perfectly al dente and the lamb very tender, the ragu needed more seasoning.

The filling in the ravioli with ricotta and truffle in a sage butter could have done with a pinch of salt too, and at $26 a bowl we reckon it's too steeply priced for a casual Italian local.

Vitello tonnato ($24) on the other hand gives more bang for the buck. It's quite thickly cut, extremely tender and barely seared. The veal slices are criss-crossed with mayonnaise but there is no discernible tuna or anchovy flavour, and the golf-ball sized potato and tuna fritters that come with it are again a little bland, extraneous to requirements and add nothing more than another textural element.

The dessert list is appealing, with cannoli and a chocolate pudding among the offerings. On a warm spring day, a chocolate semifreddo studded with hazelnuts and accompanied by a chocolate espresso sauce, figs and raspberries was perfect, backed up with a tiny cup of well made espresso.

As well as lunch and dinner, Il Locale offers takeaway pizza and pasta, an option likely to be popular with locals.

Italian food is so simple. It relies heavily on great ingredients and a sure hand with seasoning. The Togninis have definitely nailed the first, but a little more courage with the salt shaker would serve them well.