It's rare to find a restaurant where you'll be welcomed as if you were a member of the family these days – usually you'll be lucky to get a smile. Which is why Fortitude Valley's new Italian restaurant is a breath of fresh air, because here the service is as important as the scrumptious food on your plate.
Step into Casa Nostra and you'll be welcomed like an old friend, with owners Sarah and Biagio more than likely there to greet you – Sarah at front of house and Biagio in the kitchen working his magic. The husband and wife duo have been in the restaurant business for decades, and have a fan club of diners who follow them from restaurant to restaurant, both for the delicious fare and the warm welcome they know they'll receive at the door.
Of course, the authentic Italian cuisine coming out of Biagio's kitchen is worth a visit on its own. With a few traditional recipes handed down through generations and everything made in house using local, seasonal ingredients, this is Italian fare like you've never tried before.
Start off with antipasti plates like the calamari fritti and black lip mussels in a white wine sauce, but don't go too overboard – you want to save plenty of room for the mains. Their spaghetti carbonara, a Casa Nostra specialty, is the lightest and tastiest this writer has ever tried – and trust me when I say I've tried a few.
For a comforting winter warmer, the braised lamb shank on a bed of creamy potato with gremolata sauce will have you feeling toasty from head to toe, while other dishes like the slow roasted pork belly will have you fighting over every last mouthful with your date.
It wouldn't be Italian without pizza, and there's plenty of those to sample too, but it's the desserts that will really top off the meal, with classic sweets like tiramisu, vanilla custard cannoli and decadent Italian chocolate cake to cure any sugar cravings.
Did I mention the three page wine list? Along with a few cocktails for anyone planning on a long night, the drinks menu offers a range of international and Australian wines.
If you're planning to take full advantage of the drinks list, you may want to catch public transport, but there is free parking available in the carpark underneath if you validate your pass at the restaurant. Casa Nostra is located in the M&A Laneway at 100 McLachlan Street, Fortitude Valley – and their house is your house.