Lyons Road is a strip full of restaurants, but in Russell Lea, tucked between Brent and Lithgrow Streets is La Casa Ristorante, a place I swear I'd come back again for a range of reasons-- its people, the food, and the ambience. There really is nothing fancy from the outside of La Casa. You could easily mistake it as just any other restaurant, but if you happen to step inside, it would be a happy mistake to commit.
Grigliata di Pesce. Photo from La Casa Ristorante Facebook page.
Last Saturday, I went there to have dinner with my wife and 6-year-old daughter, armed only with a little of what I have read from online reviews, which were generally very good. At the door, we were greeted by very warm folks, and since we have made a booking, we were quickly ushered in to a table.
The wait staff wasted no time making my girls comfortable. We had entree, and I fancied Gamberoni alla Cupido, fresh king prawns wrapped in prosciutto, grilled and served with a cream of zucchini and a lemon-parmesan sauce. I am not a food connoisseur, and I might not be able to give justice to the chef who prepared the antipasti. I should, however, mention that my wife is not a fan of prawns, and I am. Because at home she is the mistress of the kitchen, it has been more than a year now since she gave way to my craving for prawn. That night was a different story though, because she totally loved Gamberoni alla Cupido. For me, it was simply unbelievable. Impressing someone with food she does not fancy is a risky proposition, but La Casa pulled it off without really trying.
Just half rack of Costate di Maiale will be more than enough. Photo from La Casa Ristorante Facebook page.
For the mains, I had Grigliata di Pesce, mixed seafood, prawns, scampi, octopus, calamari, and fish marinated in traditional Sicilian herbs and served on a bed of rocket and fries. My wife had Costate di Maiale, 1/2 rack 600g of tender pork ribs cooked in barbecue sauce style served with chunky fries. The food was amazing. I expected the calamari to be chewy, but I was surprised to find it less chewy and more tender. A word to the wise, if dining at La Casa Ristorante, mains are meant to be shared, unless you come with an empty stomach. Otherwise, you'll end up with a busting belly, because the food is so good you would continue to nibble up bits of this and bits of that long after you have decided you're already stuffed.
My picky little daughter had food of her own. She had wood fired pizza, the Margherita. It was a concoction of tomato, mozzarella and basil on sauce base. Since it was a whole pan, I thought it was too much for my princess to finish, so I had a bite too. Their Margherita was uniquely awesome, proof of which is that my daughter had a big appetite that night. I would gladly spend for dinner if she would always have that appetite.
The best of wood-fired pizza in Sydney, only at La Casa Ristorante. Photo from La Casa Ristorante Facebook page.
In sum, that dinner at La Casa Ristorante was a gastronomic experience of its kind. It is unfortunate that I do not have the gift of words to describe the many flavours that charmed us that night, but with all honesty, I can say that the food was fantastic. The staff were warm and friendly, and there was a very short wait for the food to be served. As you step inside its door, you'd feel its distinctive Italian identity, from the spoken language to the menu and the ambience. Once you have tasted its food, you'd realise it's not just any other Italian restaurant. La Casa Ristorante has brought a piece of Sicily in this part of Sydney. It has mastered the art of Sicilian cuisine where no one taste is so strong as to overpower the other, resulting to simple yet delectable fusion of flavours.
Who will not be tempted by the Trio di Gelati - hazlenut, lemon sorbet and pistachio? Photo from the La Casa Ristorante Facebook page.
La Casa Ristorante is located at 271 Lyons Road, Russell Lea, NSW. While walk-in patrons are welcome, it would be best to get a reservation so you are assured of a table as the place could easily fill up. You can reserve online or by calling La Casa Ristorante at (02) 9712 3882. Come prepared, check out the menu first.
There is no customer parking at La Casa Ristorante, but it is just a short stroll to the nearest available off-street parking slot.