IT was the Tuesday night after the long weekend, with fork lightning and thunder ripping open the sky.
It was surely a write-off for most restaurants in Perth, but not for Acqua e Sale on Fitzgerald Street, which was almost full to the brim with loyal punters.
The little Italian was perfect for a stormy night with soft pendant lights, dark textured walls and wood fittings creating a cosy cuddle-up-beside-the-fire vibe.
We were greeted by a smiley, handsome Italian waiter who had all the patter and cheeky chat, reminding me of summers holidays in Cattolica as a child.
The menu had a small range of fresh pasta and risotto, an extensive range of wood-fired pizzas, and some sophisticated entrees like king scallops served with stracciatella cheese, and locally made burrata cheese with salsa rossa. There were also some oysters and seafood available.
This was refined and modern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on quality and authenticity, so the prices were slightly higher than your typical spagball joints.
The chef was influenced by the food of Sardinia, so I was tempted to try the Culurgiones (hand-braded Sardinian pasta pockets stuffed with potato, Pecorino DOP and mint) but I couldn’t resist the Gnocchi di Patate all’Anatra e Porcini ($29.50).
It was a wise decision – the braised duck leg ragu in this dish was stunning, with melt-in-the-mouth pieces of meat submersed in a rich, complex sauce.
Cheap gnocchi can sit in your gut like a bowling ball, but these homemade specimens were the lightest I’ve ever eaten and on the drive home I didn’t feel stuffed or any post-meal fatigue.
The slices of porcini mushrooms were pungent and went well with the parmesan cheese, while the aromatic crispy breadcrumbs were a masterstroke, adding a nice texture to the dish (gnocchi can sometimes feel like a gooey slog after a few mouthfuls). A beautiful dish.
Across the table my wife was enjoying her Parmigiana pizza ($24.90).
Thankfully it wasn’t some tacky pun with a parmi slapped on top, but a vegetarian delight with eggplant, pesto and fior di latte mozzarella.
“This is the best pizza I’ve ever had in Perth,” enthused my wife.
“The topping has the perfect balance of pesto and eggplant, and the wood-fired base is super thin and crispy.
“I like how each slice has the same amount of eggplant and pesto when the pizza is cut up.
“Normally I’m done after a few slices, but I’ve finished this one and want more.”
Higher-end restaurants don’t normally have a kids menu, so hats off to Acqua e Sale for including one with a range of pasta and pizzas, and an ice cream for $14.
My young kids annihilated their Margherita pizzas, which were just the right size, and wolfed down their ice cream with cherries in record time. Clearly a hit.
The restaurant is licensed, has a small range of desserts and does a set menu for larger groups.
My only gripe – there didn’t seem to be any tap water on the tables and we had to buy sparkling water ($10), which doesn’t last long when you have young kids.
Our meal at Acqua e Sale was top notch and I can see why it’s so popular with locals – a modern and delicious take on Italian cuisine.
By STPHEN POLLOCK
Acqua e Sale
391 Fitzgerald Street,