189 William Street Northbridge, Western Australia 6003
|Opening hours||Seven days, 10am till late|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||0401 004 413|
Wanna hear my pizza joke? No, it's way too cheesey.
Ba dum dam tish!
This lame gag popped up in a highbrow discussion on food being a key instrument for positive cultural change. And nowhere is this sentiment more eloquently expressed than in a new and very, very cool Perth restaurant.
It's a pocket of a place – just a hole in a grungy wall really – but it's overflowing with irony, passion and sincerity.
And you can contemplate all of that while chowing down on shared plates of eggplant parmigiana and a few slices of pink-in-the-middle charred beef fillet while overlooking the passing parade of revellers pounding the street on a balmy summer's night.
Irony? The name.
No Mafia is set in the heart of what has been, historically, a crime-ridden area of Northbridge. The owners – Emma Ferguson, Dan Morris and Cris and Sarita Leal -- make no bones about dispelling any notions of glamour associated with the mafia which controls much of the food industry in Siciliy, the Italian region they have focused on for their 40-seater no-pasta-no-pizza restaurant.
The four owners are so enthusiastic about the culinary connections they have drawn between Western Australian produce and that of Sicily, that they have turned humble eggplants, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes into the stars of their farm-to-plate menu.
They've given them a southern Italian whiz around the kitchen and, prego, out they come in a jar or on a serviette or a pristine white plate. So, all the diner has to do is delve in and marvel at the old sidekicks taking centre stage. And there's not even any urge to wonder where the pasta is.
Well, what's the litmus test there? Pouring wines by the glass actually at the table. Yes, its mandatory but how often does it actually happen? And the waiter was not only full bottle on the Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Bianco Sicilia IGT, Sicily, but he could also describe it like his grandmother had grown the grapes and he was personally involved in the stamping of it.
He was also spot on with his menu knowledge explaining at length how to make a nocello lemonade, the stunning nutty little drink we had to start.
Yep, this place has sincerity in spades and, courtesy of executive chef Sam McKinven, it all translates to the plate – or the serviette – which is the unorthodox way the spicy pancetta came to the table.
The food, which swerves right away from the stereotypical Sicilian staples traditionally fed to the tourists, is way more hit than miss.
Charred fillet with rosemary and lemon was faultless. Charred beef. It's not rocket science but it's amazing how often a stewy, overcooked piece of meat is served up in the name of fillet.
This one had been tenderly cooked, long and slow in a sous vide and then whacked on the grill. Loved the rosemary and lemon drizzled confidently down the side of the plate.
Eggplant parmigiana came into its own, baked lasagne style, layers of parmesan cream oozing between thin slices of smokey eggplant with a kick of garlicky basil pesto for punch.
Potted tuna? Not a fan, having tried it for the first time. It wasn't rillettes. It wasn't gravlax. But it was cured in a secret Campagna brine involving rosemary, lemon and olive oil.
And as we piled the chunks of Bread in Common sourdough – bread doesn't automatically come with the tuna or the charcuterie items -- we commented drily how fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is. It wasn't off but it was overly strong.
More fragrant, and much more colourful, was the salad of baby tomatoes dressed with smooth curds of fresh Mozarella. That's Mozarella as this Buffalo milk cheese should be. White, creamy and no rubber.
We finished with zabaglione – a classic combo of marsala, egg yolks and plenty of the most important ingredient, air, whisked through. Well, it whisked me right back to the 70s and The Romany restaurant , which stood opposite No Mafia on William Street offering a new exotic menu to bland Perth cuisine of pasta, pizza and parmigiana.
And, as we luxuriated in the ancient dessert and looked out over the old site soaking up the colour, the vibrancy and the hype of the Perth Cultural Centre – outdoor cinemas, food trucks, urban orchard and Fringe fever -- we drank a toast to food and culture and agreed Perth is definitely the winner.
0 - 10 Don't waste your money
11 - 15 Worth a look
16 - 20 Put it on your bucket list