Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published March 14th 2017
A delightful Australian restaurant with an Italian accent
Some years ago there was an advertisement on TV along the lines of 'I liked it so much I bought the company'. And let's face it, who hasn't been at work, looked around and thought 'I could run this so much better.'
Certainly young Naomi, when she was working as a server in a restaurant while putting herself through university on a business degree, felt that perhaps there was a better way.
Fast forward six or so years - Naomi, now in her late twenties and with rather more business experience found the restaurant she had worked in was for sale.
Accordingly, after considerable discussion, her father Craig and his partner Jackie bought the restaurant, cleaned it up and reopened as Amarettos in Ellenbrook.
The delicious ribs at Amarettos (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Amaretto is Italian, and means literally, 'little love' usually shown in art as pudgy little Cupids. Certainly it's an excellent name for this particular restaurant (which is not in any way associated with Cafe Amaretto) which treats the food with respect, the customers with care and the whole hospitality business as a calling rather than a way to make easy money.
Amarettos is a medium sized restaurant offering dining inside and out in a wide, airy, light, comfortable area. The decor was designed by Jackie, whose other career was in the New Home Industry Designing and Selling, and the choice of colours is imaginative, both welcoming and calming.
Amarettos restaurant feature wall (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The main feature is a four-part original hand-painted in China per Jackie's instructions of a stylised money tree. Calming as it is, the painting caused a certain amount of anxiety as it arrived, in pieces and without instructions, just the day before the grand re-opening.
Imagine an Ikea kitchen flat pack without instructions or tools. It was completed only hours before the doors opened, but worth the effort, in my opinion.
Angela and I called in at lunchtime on a Wednesday to try the food. The menu is huge, broken into breakfast, luncheon and dinner. It's also licensed so there's a sizable wine and drinks list as well.
Cider on tap at Amarettos (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
It's all one big menu, so you can be tempted to come back for a different meal - Personally, I have to come back for breakfast. Soon.
There is a good variety and balance to the dishes, mostly European with a strong Italian accent, but all enticing and attractive.
Deep fried Camembert (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
As a special favour Chef cooked a dinner entrée for Angela - the deep fried Camembert ($14) served, not with the usual sweet plum sauce, but with an original sauce of fresh strawberries
in a berry and port coulis. Different, fresh and delicious.
For myself, I ordered Lemon Pepper Calamari ($15) with sauce Tatare . Chef, I expect, took one look at me and sent out a main course size ($18), and I'm very glad he did. The squid was superb.
Salt and Pepper Squid (Photograph by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Calamari/squid is really, really easy to get wrong. Under-cooked and it's slimy and horrible and three minutes later it's over-cooked, rubbery and awful. Chef got it perfectly in the middle of that tiny window, magnificently tender and the light, lemon and peppered finish just made it delicious. The salad was nice, but for me the hero was the calamari.
Craig tells me people come from all over and come back often to eat that Calamari - and I have no difficulty believing that at all. I myself would travel a fair distance to get it.
For mains Angela had a Chicken Burger ($18) served on a good wooden trencher and a miniature deep fry basket of crisp chips. I had another major popular favourite - the BBQ Babyback Pork Ribs ($25), cooked in Chef's own BBQ sauce served with chips and a sizeable salad.
Chicken burger (D Sutherland-Bruce)
A goodly, generous portion of a pile of ribs, glazed in a rich, smokey, sipid sauce. The meat just fell off the bone in tender deliciousness. Very popular, Craig said, a huge under-statement if I ever heard one.
We were very pleased with our meal, the service was friendly, the prices reasonable and the surroundings charming. We didn't stay for sweet course for reasons of sheer capacity, but the cakes and cheesecakes in the cabinet looked amazing and there's a range of ice creams to add.
Next time I shall re-arrange my meal to make sure sweets are included (even if it's breakfast.)
I should also point out that in addition to the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus there are specials - Monday offers Jazz and Shiraz, Wednesdays offer Parmy Night and Thursday
hosts 'Best Steak in Town Night'. They also offer a take-away service and menu for those occasions when you don't want to shave or put on clothes and would rather eat in your pyjamas watching TV.
Next month I celebrate thirty years as a professional food writer. I've also served as a Gold Plate Judge and you would think that over the years of eating at literally thousands of restaurants I would have a good handle on the secret of a successful restaurant.
Nope. Not a clue. Not the foggiest.
What I can do, is spot a restaurant that has got it right and Amarettos is a restaurant that reeks of success - you can see it in every aspect - the spotless dining hall, the smiling wait staff,
the happy diners, that buzz of contentment that cannot be faked. I strongly suggest that you climb aboard this success express and give your stomach a real treat.
A most enjoyable read Douglas. I was thinking, this place sounds worth visiting, I wonder where Ellenbrook is. And while you 'would travel a fair distance to get it', I just can't justify the plane fare.