Livoti's is an unassuming shopfront to say the least. Hiding behind what looks like an average suburban deli is something really special.
The second thing you notice about Livoti's is the family atmosphere. The first is the wall of noise created by happy people eating. On a Saturday night, most of the tables are filled, quite a few by Italian families having a night out. The wait staff add to this atmosphere – within a few seconds of entering we're being offered the family high chair for the toddler in our midst, with the owner explaining how the restaurant gives her an excuse to hang on to a beloved bit of baby paraphernalia when her youngest is 17. This level of friendliness makes the harsh glare of the lights and lino of the deli fade into insignificance. It feels like we're home.
I wasn't expecting much from an Italian deli hidden in the streets of Dee Why. I was completely blown away by the food.
Our first course was bruschetta. I don't think I've ever had a better one. Years of disappointing bruschetta have almost made me forget what it really is – some bread with some really nice tomatoes and olive oil on top. The bread that was the base of this bruschetta was a generic breadstick, but the richness of the diced tomato on top would have made a beer mat palatable. Paired with a good olive oil it was exactly what it should be. My tastebuds woke up.
Alerted now to the quality of food this place was capable of, I was a little disappointed by the appearance of my penne chorizo. My companions had been more adventurous – one had gone for the lamb special, a lamb rump stuffed with spinach, cherry tomatoes and bocconcini and twice-roasted; another for the creamy goodness of tortellini with ham and cream; yet another with the bubbly cheesy goodness of cannelloni.
An unimpressive photo of a truly impressive meal. See that parmesan? Delightful.
I thought maybe I had made a mistake by not ordering something traditional. Then I took my first bite. A beautifully subtle parmesan flavour flowed across my tastebuds, followed by the sharp zing of a dash of napoli sauce and the round flavour of sausage. Ye gods. I would have been happy with the parmesan alone.
Resisting dessert was not a possibility. There were only two on offer, and tiramisu with me always comes before cheesecake. Again, I foolishly set my expectations low (homemade tiramisu is a tough thing to beat) and again was made to feel like an idiot by the quality of the dish served. I've never seen a tiramisu so light. It was only when the bottom layer started to melt that I figured out how the chef must have made it (keeping everything well chilled before, during and after assembly). Even more amazing was the lightness of its flavour – most tiramisu gets overwhelming after a while. The only reason I didn't finish it was because I just couldn't fit any more food into my stomach.
There's really no other way of saying it - this tiramisu is incredibly light.