Italian and Sons

Italian and Sons sparked Lonsdale Street's transformation into a bastion of cool.
Italian and Sons sparked Lonsdale Street's transformation into a bastion of cool. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

7 Lonsdale Street Braddon, Australian Capital Territory 2612

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Opening hours Lunch Tues-Fri noon-2pm; dinner Mon-Sat 6pm-late
Features Accepts bookings, Licensed, Wheelchair access
Chef Francesco Petrillo
Seats 60
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 6162 4888

As hard as this is I managed to drag myself away from Friday night football and arrange the family to come from all points to meet for a meal at Italian and Sons. I know, I had the pies lined up, some bags of chips, a few beers and my watchin'-'n'-drinkin' chair lined up perfectly so I wouldn't have to budge or expend too much energy for 90-odd minutes.

It's been a hard-fought season, so many controversies, but my team, the … oh, you want to hear about what's happening at this little restaurant in Braddon. Well, not much to say that hasn't been said before, a place that would be hard to pass on anywhere in the world.

It certainly pioneered interesting foods in this part of town. Besides O Stratos and some bars, there wasn't a huge reason to turn left off Bunda Street in the city and up Lonsdale Street. As hard as this is to believe, you could not even get a coffee here five years ago. Imagine that. Now you can't walk five paces without a new cafe and roasterie popping up in front of you. It's all development. There's only one car yard left and it must be hanging around for the sole purpose of retaining a token industrial feel.

Delicate: Rangers valley beef carpaccio.
Delicate: Rangers valley beef carpaccio. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

So it's pumping in this part of the world while my team get thrashed at ANZ Stadium, and as long as you don't need car parking – because that is the challenge – it's the most happening place around. Italian and Sons is busy, the first seating is in full flight, so many staff are purposefully charging around, the wood-fired oven is glowing, the wine be a-flowing, and the taste buds ... umm, be soon wallowin'?

There are heaps of specials tonight, along with the flagged piatti del giorno – fish, it being Friday. There are other tempting dishes that make me slightly relieved about not being too fastidiously Catholic. Beef cheeks and wood-fired pork both sound so good. However, before we launch into these mains, the tough decision is what antipasti and affettati we'll need to ease into the night.

There's a slight change to the recipe for the n'duja, I feel. It's been a while but this rich, smoky salami of sorts is firmer than I recall. There's  good heat from the chilli but it takes a bit more work with the fork and olive oil to break it up. Still, it's one of the best cured pork products I've had. We pair it for $19 with some super thin sliced San Daniele prosciutto. So delicate and perfect to wedge into these little gnocco fritto, which is like pizza dough that's been fried to puff it up. And of course there is  pungent broadbean pesto on the side.

Braised beef cheeks with bitter greens and gremolata.
Braised beef cheeks with bitter greens and gremolata. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

This course alone, along with a few cheeses, would be a perfect meal in itself. Gloriously rich and just so packed with flavour.  The antipasta special is a plate of lightly smoked swordfish, very thinly sliced and seasoned with pink peppercorns and lemony oil ($19) along with a similarly wafer thin Rangers valley beef carpaccio ($17) with little exploded capers, shavings of the wonderful, and slightly manly, Testun de Barolo (a mixed milk cheese encrusted with baked-on grape marc) and finished with a herby salad.

These two dishes are just so delicate, they dissolve in the mouth with their respective seasonings, pure flavour and delightful texture. This food is spectacular. The last starter is a more intense, brooding dish of wood-braised octopus in a rich tomato and wine sauce studded with little unctuous pearls of fregula, a bit like Israeli cous cous ($17).

This is a good wedge to the mains, building in technique, size and richness from these very simple raw and cured dishes. The boys hit the pasta menu, where they are very content with maccheroni al' ragu ($29); as good a sauce as you'll find, braised down and shredded suckling lamb in tomato and red wine. Stunningly simple in design, yet so deeply flavoured.

Lemon tart with passionfruit and clotted cream.
Lemon tart with passionfruit and clotted cream. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

I choose the deeply coloured beef cheeks ($34) as opposed to the wood-fired and guilt-free swordfish ($35). The cheeks have held their basic structure, so they look like a nice plump cheek that you could plant a kiss on, but collapse with the slightest of fork pressure into melt-in-the-mouth succulence.

Desserts are always a battle. Do you head to the tidy list of curds or have something with a dash of sweetness. Tiramisu ($14) is the crowd-pleaser; better I have not had yet. Yet I had better have the lemon tart ($16) to try something different. Lovely, well balanced sweet and tart, the crust is wafer thin so it only imparts a touch of buttery joy to the fragile, glassy custard served with clotted cream and passionfruit sauce.

In the vino department, we just run the wine by the glass gauntlet. It's such a good wine list but there's so much road between here and my vacant chair at home that I think it's best not to even tempt myself with a bottle.

Full of energy: Busy staff at Italian and Sons, Braddon.
Full of energy: Busy staff at Italian and Sons, Braddon. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

In no particular order we have a silky garganega, a heady, slightly composting nettley sauvignon, floral high country lagrein and a princely, elegant chianti classico to see this delicious food on its way. 

I'm absolutely full of praise, yet again, for Italian and Sons. The place still has the energy it opened with six years ago and can be seen as the catalyst that got this electric Braddon street going.