On Tuesday’s, I finish uni at 1pm. In one regard this is great, as I have the whole afternoon free and more importantly, makes post-class lunch dates super convenient, almost necessity. The problem is that with this in mind, I spend a considerable amount of lecture/ tute time using uni wifi to click through cafe menu after menu, trying to decide where to go. And the problem with Sydney is that with so many options, the choice can be overwhelming, and I leave class puzzled both by what I supposedly just learnt, and about where to eat.
This particular Tuesday was no exception. After much mind changing (sushi/somewhere in the city/surry hills/ bills/sushi/back to bills), my friend Tal and I finally settled on Alimentari. Neither of us had been before – I’d never heard of it, but he’d heard good things.
Just strolling distance off Oxford st, on the corner of paddington st and boutique lined William, Alimentari seems to have a strong throng of regulars that keep it permanently buzzing. I recognized it straight away as that busy place I’d passed by but never been in. Expect a short line of people behind the counter, waiting either to order food or pay for their purchases. The cafe doubles as a deli, stocking a range of gourmet pantry products of mainly Italian influence, like pasta and passata. There is also an antipasto counter, and a display of pastries and baked goods that are supplied by various stockists, such as slices of the famous Pasticceria Papa cheesecake. Seating at the front of the shop is limited, with two central tables and a few bar seats against the wall and front window, plus a bench outside. Italiana touches like a wicker basket and lemon patterned tea towel hang from the ceiling and warm, dark wooden floorboards used as ceiling enhance the crowded but cosy feel. We nabbed a spot against the wall, though later discovered that there is also a courtyard with more roomy seating out the back.
The menu, chalked above the counter, is concise and as one would expect, pasta heavy. There are also panini, antipasto and a couple of simple salads on offer. Since the chicken schnitzel was out I tried tuna, a canned variety tipped atop mixed leaves, marinated capsicum, cherry tomatoes, avo and a few slices of bocconcini. It’s satisfying, the drizzle of good quality balsamic and olive oil making all the difference.
Risotto of the day was a classic funghi (mushroom) variation. It’s not the flat, puddle like model of perfection they harp on about on Masterchef, though it is a bolstering serve of soft yet still aldente rice, not too creamy and generously studded with button mushrooms. Extra parmesan was ordered and added for a little more salt.
And of course, there’s good coffee to be had too, if you so desire a sweet espresso to end your meal with a final Italiano flourish.