Food forté

The produce at La Mortazza is authentic and the staff are super friendly.

ITALIAN techno from the 1990s was playing when I visited La Mortazza.

I wasn’t at a rave for middle-aged Italian expats, but a funky cafe/deli in North Perth.

According to the friendly lady behind the till they were listening to live radio from their homeland, where people were still out partying in the wee hours.

It certainly beats That’s Amore or the cheesy drivel you get in some Italian cafes, so hats off to the owners for having some originality. 

La Mortazza is one of those under the radar places – just up from the Pot Black snooker hall on Fitzgerald Street, it doesn’t have “shouty” signage and is easy to miss being slightly off the main drag.

It’s situated at the end of Venn Street, a lovely suburban enclave with leafy trees and gorgeous period houses (every second one has its own name), so I imagine it’s a favourite with discerning locals.

On a bitterly cold and wet Tuesday, I got a lovely welcome from the Italian lady behind the display counter, which was crammed with mouth-watering cured Italian meats, pastries and freshly-made meals. 

She had a good old chinwag in her native tongue with the previous customer, who had a young child with her, so it all felt quite homely and welcoming.

I opted to get a continental roll ($13) for lunch and some goodies to take home for the clan for dinner.

On a miserable day, it was nice to have the roll toasted and slightly warm.

The bread was just how I like it: light and fluffy on the inside with a nice crunchy crust.

The roll wasn’t overloaded and had a tasty mix of salami, ham, mozzarella cheese, tomato and rocket.

I really enjoyed the salami and it may have been a mix of hot and mild, as occasionally you would get a spicy kick.

I would file this continental roll under classy/understated – quality over quantity with the produce doing the talking, although it was still very filling.

Later that night at home, my wife ‘Special K’ got stuck into her lasagne ($12).

“I’m counting eight layers of pasta here, but it still tastes super light and isn’t a slog half-way through,” she said.

“The pork has that lovely slow-cooked taste and the tomato sauce is rich and flavoursome. A top notch and authnetic lasagne.”

I tricked my kids into eating broccoli by getting them the Orecchiette Pugliesi ($11)

A pasta from the Apulia region in Southern Italy, orecchiette is named after its ear-like shape.

I pretended they looked like clam shells as I kept getting images of Hannibal Lecter chomping off people’s ears and chucking some broccoli on top.

Anyway, the broccoli rabe woven around the pasta worked a treat and the kids wolfed it down.

I had a sneaky taste and it was a gorgeous dish; incredibly light with a strong punch of garlic.

Apparently orecchiette alla pugliese is the signature pasta dish of Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s boot. Well worth trying if you fancy something lighter and a bit healthier.

In tribute to the recent death of actor Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), I went old-school with my penne meatballs ($12)

Well that’s what it said on the container, but it was actually spaghetti with meatballs, which I prefer, so it was a fortuitous mistake.

The quality of the pork and veal in the meatballs really shone through – delicate with loads of flavour – but I would have liked a bit more sauce to coat the generous serve of spaghetti, which again was incredibly fresh and light.

La Mortazza has authentic Italian produce, and top staff with plenty of chat and personality.

They also do home delivery.

I’ll be back to try their coffee and sit-in service, and might even exhume my glow stick and whistle, so I can fully enjoy their Italian techno.

La Mortazza
500 Fitzgerald Street, North Perth
lamortazza.com.au

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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