Cafes, Restaurants and Dining in Perth, Western Australia.

Da Vinci Ristorante Pizzeria

1 Scarborough Beach Road

North Perth

Ph: (08) 9201 1144

www.davinciristorante.net.au

Classic Italian – Just the way Perth likes it.

Dino Russocaronte is very Perth and very contemporary – but chat to him over a tasting plate at Da Vinci (his current dining venue), and you’ll meet a man with a classic old-fashioned, and thoroughly Italian, way of thinking about eating and living.

The way he calls it, dining out is not an exception to the normal routine of living, it’s part of it, and a restaurant should be comfortable and predictable enough that you know your standards will be met – but varied enough that you can always try something new.

Russocaronte’s understanding of Perth’s palate rests on years of experience. He was the man behind the menu at the Gino’s Pizzeria in Fremantle between 1995 and 2000 (for those who don’t remember that was about the time that Perth’s fascination with gourmet pizza’s really kicked off, and Gino’s played a major part). After leaving Gino’s, Russocaronte moved to Soprano’s near the Windsor in South Perth, where he again built a reputation for quality.

Da Vinci has been in operation on the corner of Scarborough Beach Road and Charles St in North Perth since August 2005 and its menu is a blend of the old and the new.

For example, its signature Bruschetta offering of toasted garlic bread topped with grilled eggplant, roasted capsicum and anchovy fillets harks back to the days at Gino’s where it became a firm favorite among some customers.

On the other hand, he says Perth dining habits have evolved a fair bit over the past four or five years and that: “The biggest change is that these days people like a lot more shared food, and this is probably because of our growing familiarity with Asian-styles of eating that has now spilled over into all kinds of cuisine.” His solution is to make generous tasting plates available.

Living up to its name as a pizzeria, there are 15 different wood-fired ‘pizze’ on the menu ( price range $9 – $18.50) and the handmade base is so good that the pizzas begin with the minimalist ‘Bianca’, topped with just garlic, herbs and olive oil.

The pasta selection is just as traditional and impressive, including cannelloni, gnocchi, fettuccine, tortellini and lasagna ($13 – $20.50). The secret ingredient in most of them is a tomato sauce recipe that Russocaronte learned from his mum.

Beyond these old favourites the menu features some surprises. Russocaronte says: “The spatchcock is one of our best dishes – but because it’s unusual not many people know to order it. It’s one of those dishes though, that once you’ve had it once you tend to come back for it.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy comment on both the spatchcock and the lamb cutlets we ordered was that while the meat was perfectly cooked, tender and tasty – it was the vegetables accompanying them that completely impressed me and reminded me of the classic Italian approach to slow cooking fresh produce and cunningly using the right herbs to complement the flavours in the overall dish.

While the menu itself stays static enough that you can be confident that the dish you loved last month will almost certainly still be there next month, the specials change weekly to give regular customers variety.

In terms of ambiance, expect a relatively light, tasteful but clearly Italian-themed room, with terracotta floor tiles, the odd marble bust, a fantastic domed ceiling and a few Da Vinci prints. There are also tables outside in the Mediterranean-style al fresco zone.

Expect to see some fairly large tables with groups of lively people dining, some family groups and an array of relaxed looking couples. Moving between the tables you’ll see Russocaronte, meeting, greeting and taking care of his customers and exchanging a bit of cheerful banter with the other staff.

The restaurant itself seats about 110 inside and 40 outside, and can cater for seated functions of 20 to 80 (using longer tables) and standing functions of up to 120. It also does a healthy trade in takeaway food with everything on the menu available for takeaway pick up for 10% less than the table service price.

The bar serves a selection of Australian wines, beers and international liqueurs, as well as a fun list of cocktails. The crowning glory of the dessert list is the mango-filled vanilla crepes and if you have room, after the generous portion sizes, to finish up with a coffee, we recommend going off-menu and asking for a “Dino Special” – it’s a warm and friendly way to round off a thoroughly satisfying meal.

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