Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde Shopping Centre, Ryde

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It was getting quite late after a secret event I attended in the area (hint: the word “girt” was used in the event), so instead of our original plan of driving to a nearby suburb for familiar food, we decided to try something in the nearby-nearby Top Ryde Shopping Centre. Italian sounded appetising tonight and Bar Angolo Pizzeria is just on the nearby-nearby-nearby ground floor!

Bar Angolo has a decent-sized menu for the size of the place, with all sorts of antipasti, pasta, pizza, mains, gelato and other Italian desserts available. We casually noted how much the restaurant pride themselves on being authentic and “sorry no super supreme, meat lovers, pineapple or half & half pizza / please refrain from modifications“; for the authenticity and higher quality of food you trade for potentially slower service. That wouldn’t do as it was getting even later after the secret girt event, so I resisted the temptation of ordering authentic lasagne and settled on some authentic pizzas.

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Diavola Pizza

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Diavola Pizza ($22)

Pizza one was the Diavola ($22), with mozzarella, spicy salamino and basil on a tomato base. Pizza two was the Bar Angolo speciale ($23) also on a tomato base, with mozzarella, salame, ricotta, olives and mushrooms. Thankfully, authentic pizzas didn’t take too long to be done after the waiter with an authentic Italian accent took our order.

(I promise I’ll give this authentic thing a rest soon. wink )

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Bar Angolo Speciale Pizza

Bar Angolo Pizzeria, Top Ryde, June 2015: Bar Angolo Speciale Pizza ($23)

The pizzas arrived in their 24-hour-risen, 31-cm, hand-stretched, hot-stoned dough glory. The crusts were satisfactory and a little thicker than I expected (not a complaint), and we excused the non-spicy spicy salamino as a lack of heat seems to be a common Italian cuisine feature. The biggest disappointment, though, was the tomato sauce base that we couldn’t quite taste, perhaps drowned out by the extreme saltiness of both pizzas.

I don’t know if I had developed higher expectations from reading about the food’s authenticity and higher quality advertised everywhere on the menu and walls, but the pizzas we had tonight weren’t very impressive. Sadly, I don’t see myself going out of my way to revisit the pizzeria for the pizzas. I wonder if the better choice would have been the lasagne. Authentic lasagne.

Bar Angolo Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Pizza Trattoria, Cairns

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This was the only free night for the colleague and good friend who travelled to Cairns solely for work, so we made him the third wheel again and went out in town for a dinner together. We decided to scout out the various eateries on the Esplanade that we had in mind before committing (dinner is serious business), and we found the place with the vibe we didn’t know we were looking for: La Pizza’s intoxicating scent of freshly baked pizza!

We’ve been getting a bit of rain but it’s all covered outdoor seating here. This Friday night was a busy night (I’ve actually lost sense of what day of the week it was because the work conference runs all the way to the weekend).

La Pizza allows pizza customisation including half/half, removing toppings or adding for extra, which was convenient as the friend didn’t want pineapple on his. We had to wait a good 40 minutes for our food, but with an open kitchen of the three chefs working non-stop in full view, you could hardly get angry.

La Pizza, Cairns: Open Kitchen

La Pizza, Cairns: Open Kitchen

There are three sizes available for all pizzas: small ($11-15), medium ($15-20), and large ($19-25). I got the Mexicana that came with salami and jalapeno on a nice thin base — in the only acceptable size, large ($22), of course. Richard got a medium Romano with prosciutto and rocket ($20), while Ali got the Supreme sans pineapple of the same size ($19).

The best part of the pizzas? The tomato sauce! Okay, I thought the pizza was omg yum get in my belly; Richard was the one who pointed out what made them especially good. Yup. Dating the right guy.

La Pizza, Cairns: Mexicana Pizza (large)

La Pizza, Cairns: Mexicana Pizza (large $22)

Richard and I revisited the restaurant a few days later on the Monday night. We’d intended to try the other Italian place across the road, but it’s closed on Mondays. And we did enjoy our first visit here.

Instead of pizza, this time we ordered pasta dishes. The base is a choice between fettuccine or penne, and Richard picked the Fettuccine Carbonara ($24). I went for the lasagne ($24), which, based on experience, could be a bit of a gamble of a restaurant order.

La Pizza, Cairns: Lasagna al Forno

La Pizza, Cairns: Lasagna al Forno ($24)

It was later into a less busy night so the wait was about half of what it was on the first night. The lasagne was also very much yum get in my belly and came with a side serving of salad covered in a generous amount of salad dressing. If I didn’t particularly feel like ragu, though, I think I would choose the pizza again. Makes sense; the place is called “La Pizza”, after all. smile

So far the food in Cairns has been unexpectedly good. Can’t wait for the next meal!

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Criniti’s Italian, Darling Harbour

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The season of overeating begins! First up is our dinner tonight with the boys at Criniti’s Italian Darling Harbour before we break for the holidays — just in time before it becomes impossible to book a table anywhere!

I had a peek at the online menu beforehand and I’m glad I did, because it’s epic and would have taken me forever to go through and make a decision on the spot. I thought the paper menu would come in a million pages, but it didn’t; it was just very tall.

Full gallery of our dinner at Criniti’s, Darling Harbour:

It’s an early Wednesday night and at that hour, the place was still fairly quiet in terms of business, but also the absolute opposite because the restaurant decided to blast music at full volume. It baffled us. Do people order more food in loud noises, even though the waitstaff could barely hear their orders? Was it so that diners couldn’t chat with one another, so they would finish their food duly and not overstay? What purpose does the loud music serve?

I could barely hear myself think, but we eventually did make up our mind. We took the advice of our very helpful waitress (once we could make out what she was saying over the music) and ordered the antipasto sampler (bigger servings than individual starters), a few other starters not covered in the sampler, a bottle of merlot for the table, and I went for the lasagne ($23.9 +6.9 to main size). Oh yes.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Starter: Mozzarella & Halloumi

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Starter: Mozzarella & Halloumi ($19.9)

The woodfired buffalo mozzarella and halloumi plate was a common starter choice among us, and it didn’t disappoint. Well, there was a chilli logo next to the menu item and my seasoned tongue detected zero of it, but I’ve learnt to not expect any heat from Italian dishes. We all enjoyed the rest of the entrees as well, with the exception of the bread and zucchini flowers that came in the antipasto sampler — the boys who tried the bread said it was quite possibly the toughest and worst bread ever; I thought the mascarpone-filled zucchini flowers were very bland.

The main dishes came a while after we finished our entrees.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Pasta: Lasagne Al Forno

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Pasta: Lasagne Al Forno ($23.9 +6.9 to main size)

I’ve had many negative experiences with lasagne from Italian restaurants (I still keep ordering the dish, yes). This veal lasagne didn’t look much, but I loved the thick, rich ragu.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Pizza: Suprema (Traditional)

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Pizza: Suprema – Traditional ($30)

When Yuzhong’s pizza arrived, I looked over with envy and kicked myself for not ordering this myself — until I stole he let me try a slice. The pizza base was soggy and wasn’t as good as its appearance; I much preferred my lasagne. I also tried Richard’s Rigatoni Reggini ($25.9 +6.9 main), one of those pasta dishes with a chilli icon. Richard found one slice of chilli in it. Yep. Italian food and chilli.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Dessert: Ricotta Cake

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Dessert: Ricotta Cake ($13)

Dessert! I got the cinnamon-y baked ricotta cheesecake ($13), which was deliciously light but creamy — exactly what I was after tonight! Richard’s zeppole (Italian doughnuts) ($13) with hazelnut sauce looked quite deadly.

Criniti's Darling Harbour: Dessert: Zeppole

Criniti’s Darling Harbour: Dessert: Zeppole ($13)

Overall, I rather enjoyed the night. Advice for new diners, though? Read the menu beforehand and unless you enjoy being blasted with loud music, perhaps ask to sit outside!

See you for more overeating next year, boys!

Criniti's Darling Harbour Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Caruso’s Italian, Gymea

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It’s my second visit to Caruso’s, both times on a weeknight. The last time we went there, I ordered a lasagne that was very disappointing. I learnt my lesson this time and decided to get a pizza like the others. We ordered a large Mexican ($27.50), large Messicano Dolce ($28.50), and a Procidana on a gluten free base that only comes in the regular size ($22.90 + 3 for gluten free).

Caruso's: Messicano Dolce (large)

Caruso’s: Messicano Dolce (large)

The waiter was very friendly, but the food took quite a while to come out despite the place being quite quiet on the weeknight. The pizzas were also only warm when they got to the table, and the size was a little small — large was more like regular and regular medium.

Caruso's: Mexican Pizza (large)

Caruso’s: Mexican Pizza (large)

I tried all three pizzas and liked Mexican the most, knowing ahead that it just wouldn’t be spicy for me at all. The gluten free base was actually quite all right as well: hard to cut but not chewy, crispy on the sides and with a slight sweet taste to it. I also liked that their pizzas weren’t super salty. The Procidana was a little, but that was expected from the prosciutto and parmesan. It’s not woodfired pizza, but it was certainly a much better choice than the lasagne.

Next time I think I’ll try one of their mains. The Cotoletta Alla Diavola (parmesan crusted rib eye cutlet) that Richard got last time looked pretty good.

Caruso's Italian on Urbanspoon

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt

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The Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar receptionist grabbed us as soon as we walked out of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre after an event. We were told that their spaghetti marinara and lamb shanks were on specials, and they also had delicious authentic woodfired pizzas and other pasta dishes. Italian was what we were after tonight given that we’re on Norton Street, so we thought we might as well give Makaroni a go. The place was really empty for a Saturday night. In hindsight, that should have been our first warning sign.

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Menu Page 1

Menu: starters and mains

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Menu Page 2

Menu: dessert and drinks

We chose seats near the entrance and a waiter greeted us. The waiter was very friendly, but didn’t seem to speak or understand English very well. I considered it as part of the authentic experience and didn’t think much of it. We ordered the Marinated Olives ($7.90) for a starter, the Classic “Margarita” ($14.90) pizza, the Diavola ($18.90), and a beer for Richard. The waiter apparently didn’t just not speak English very well, he also didn’t seem to know the menu and had to copy from it.

After not too long a wait, the pizzas arrived — before the starter. I asked the same waiter what happened with our olives. He looked a little confused, left and returned shortly… with a tray of olive oil and vinegar. A staff who spoke fluent English was brought in to help, but we decided to forget about our entree for tonight.

Pizza Margherita, as Richard told me at the table, was a pizza made for Queen Margherita of Italy when she visited Naples. It has basil, mozzarella and tomatoes on it to represent the green-white-red colours of the Italian flag.

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Margarita (top) and Diavola (bottom)

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Classic Margarita (top) and Diavola (bottom)

Where’s the green? Where’s the basil? This pizza was no Margherita. How could an Italian restaurant mess up the Italian flag? I was starting to think “Margarita” wasn’t actually a misspelling on their menu, but I double-checked and they did list basil as an ingredient.

Now I love super hot food that most people could not tolerate so I have very realistic expectations of the spiciness of restaurant food. According to the menu, the Diavola is meant to come with fresh chilli. I suppose they didn’t lie; there was chilli on it — one single tiny slice in the middle. For a “devil”, this was really, really disappointing.

We finished our food. The waiter who spoke fluent English came to ask if we wanted to order dessert since we didn’t get our starter. The previous time our order was messed up at another restaurant, we got a complimentary pizza to take home. This time our order was messed up at Makaroni, they tried to sell us more stuff.

We politely declined, paid our bill and left. At least they didn’t try to charge us for the olives that never came.

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Our Bill

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar, Leichhardt: Our bill of $40.80

We were quite disappointed that of all the other restaurants in the area known for excellent Italian food, we ended up here. We would definitely be returning to Norton Street and maybe even the Italian Forum, but I don’t think we would be dining at Makaroni again.

Makaroni Pizza Pasta Bar on Urbanspoon

Fortunato’s Ristorante Pizzeria, Sutherland

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As a birthday celebration for one of Richard’s friends, the lot of us (8 adults and 3 young kids) went to Fortunato’s, a new pizzeria very near Sutherland Station. After everyone arrived and the kids more or less settled down, we made our order. We got the garlic pizza ($5.90) and herb bread ($4.90) as entrees for the table, and all ordered pizzas. We were warned ahead that because they only had a limited number of ovens (one?), the pizzas would take a while to arrive, and the pizzas did get to the table pretty much one by one.

I was starving tonight so I ordered the large Meatlovers ($22.90 for large), but the waitstaff who took our order came to the table with a medium. She promptly remembered my original order (perhaps because I was embarrassingly the only person who ordered a large), and after double-checking, confirmed that the kitchen had made a mistake and offered to take the pizza back and remake the proper one. I wasn’t going to let the medium pizza go to waste, so instead, she offered for me to take home my large Meatlovers. Impressed.

Fortunato's: Meatlovers Pizza (Medium)

Fortunato’s: Meatlovers (medium) at the restaurant

So, the food. The pizza base was thin and slightly crispy, and the pizza was loaded with delicious toppings. Predictably, the Meatlovers was very salty, but we’re talking about a lot of bacon, cabanossi, leg ham and pepperoni all on one pizza here. I also tried a slice of the El Nacho ($19.90; only medium available) that had nacho, corn chips and other Mexican-inspired toppings. One of the kids looked at the guacamole on top and said:

Mummy, this looks like poop.

We laughed, but all agreed. The guacamole was strangely dark and the presentation could perhaps have been better. Thankfully the taste wasn’t affected. tongue

We got the bill. We were charged for the large pizza, so essentially I got the medium one for free. No complaints here. smile

Fortunato's: Meatlovers Pizza (Large)

Fortunato’s: Meatlovers (large) takeaway, 2 days later

I was very tired tonight but still absolutely enjoyed my dinner at Fortunato’s. If they keep up the good pizzas and service, I see myself returning.

Fortunato's on Urbanspoon

Balena, Ishiuchi Maruyama, Niigata, Japan

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Balena (バレーナ) is an Italian restaurant near the summit of Ishiuchi Maruyama (石打丸山) that required skiing to and going up several ski lifts, so it wasn’t quite an everyday restaurant that I could just pop in to try. The group had been there before and told me the food was really good; actually, they used it as the main motivation for me to get to the summit. tongue

Balena: Decor

Balena the Italian restaurant (interior) near the summit of Ishiuchi Maruyama

There weren’t a lot of people at all when we went there a little late for lunch.

They had a large menu with various Italian dishes. We ordered at the counter and food was brought to us to the table. I got the cheese pizza; the rest of them got various pasta dishes. Yummers!

Balena: Food

Balena: our order of pasta and cheese pizza

I wasn’t going to have dessert, but the rest of them were so I thought might as well while I was there! I got the tiramisu and an iced black coffee.

Balena: Tiramisu and Iced Black Coffee

My dessert at Balena: tiramisu and an iced black coffee

I couldn’t help but noticed a very odd sign on the walls: it actually said that smoking is prohibited during lunch hours. Odd, because I didn’t think Japan cared!

Balena: Self-Serve Area

Balena: self-serve area with two signs that say smoking is prohibited(!) during lunch hours

Absolutely enjoyed the food and environment there. Of course the fact that it was near the summit and I made it to the summit, their no-smoking-sometimes policy, as well as the wonderful company also helped. smile

Crust Pizza Merrylands

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Felt like pizza again but Domino’s discontinued their low carb base and the local store wasn’t opened for the day (it’s Boxing Day!), so I guess it’s time for me to try something a little different this time. I searched for whatever pizza stores still delivered, found Crust at Merrylands, grumbled about their price and the next thing I knew, a pizza was on its way to me. The estimated delivery time was 50 minutes and mine arrived in about 45.

The Mexican pizza is supposed to come with chorizo, onions, capsicum, jalapeno and chilli on a spicy tomato salsa base. There is an option to add sour cream for an extra dollar, but I wasn’t desperate for it.

Mexican (large) from Crust Pizza Merrylands

Mexican (large – 12 inches) from Crust Pizza Merrylands

Hmm. It didn’t quite look like the one they showed on the website, did it? Where are my blobs of guacamole? The pizza was also only warm and wasn’t spicy enough for me — or at all — but I suppose it did what a pizza should do: filled up my stomach for a short period and my guilt meter longer. It certainly didn’t taste 3 times as good as Domino’s and Pizza Hut, so I’m not sure if a cheapskate like me would order from them regularly after this rather disappointing experience. Kudos to them for still opening the store on a public holiday, though.

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