Umberto Espresso Bar
822 High St, Thornbury
If you play along on Instagram, you might have seen the amazing squid ink deliciousness I had on Tuesday night; I wanted to take mum out for a special Mother’s Day dinner, and being a proper Italian lady, it had to be Italian. I’ve also been craving properly made Italian pasta lately – not the usual crap you order from the Italian-by-numbers menus, proper, al dente, simple, elegant pasta.
The catch-22 is that most places don’t get how to do that, so I’m hard pressed to find anything decent when I’m craving it, particularly in suburbia. I’d seen some great things written about Umberto’s Espresso Bar lately, so when the craving hit a couple of weekends ago, I dragged husband out for dinner.
On the increasingly gentrified strip of High Street’s Thornbury end, Umberto’s has actually been around for quite a few years. It’s a tiny little place, very reminiscent of the little Italian eateries I’ve been to in Italy. The down side of this, however, is that small spaces don’t always have a lot of tables. We were seated on a table a few centimeters from the one next to us, holding a young family with a squealing baby and pram, which we thought was odd considering the 3 empty tables for two in less cramped conditions. Thankfully, we were reseated on request, so we could enjoy dinner without accidentally elbowing the pram or family next door!
The menu was everything I wanted to see; simple, classic dishes, that you knew would be warm and comforting. We started with the antipasto platter ($24.00), with all the good stuff – prosciutto, salami, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, olives, everything you want from a good antipasto plate. For $24, it was actually very good value, too, compared to other restaurants charging similar amounts and giving you half the amount.
Husband also spied the polpetta a la rosa ($9.00) – veal and beef meatballs in sauce…. Great choice, because they were perfect; soft and tender, swimming in lots of immaculately flavoured sauce to dip bread into. Again, great value – $9 got you 3 handful-sized meatballs.
Because I wanted pasta, and we were starting to fill up, we shared a bowl of the ragu di vitello con spaccattelli – home made veal sauce. And it was the ultimate cliché of “just like Nonna’s.” Tender chunks of meat, flavour like you wouldn’t believe possible in pasta sauce, and al dente pasta. It’s also very Italian to cook with veal, so I was stoked to see it on the menu in both the pasta and the meatballs. It was EXACTLY what I wanted and needed, and I’m so glad I’ve got somewhere to go close to home now when the cravings hit next time!
If you haven’t got dinner plans this weekend yet, pop in for a visit; order some wine and pasta, sit back and pretend you’re in Italy… or at Nonna’s house 🙂