From the front it is easy to walk past this tiny little shop on Bay View Terrace, but appearances are deceiving and it is a lot bigger than it initially looks. It is beautifully fitted out, and even on a cold winter's night, inside it felt like the warm summer sun a room full of the happiest people in Perth, and the smells emanating from each table was torture (in the best possible way) as we waited for our meals.
The menu changes I can't say how often but a friend who had visited less than two weeks ago and had her heart set on the scallops was devastated to see they had disappeared by the time we visited.
That being said, there are certain items you will almost certainly find, such as the enormous panko crumbed pork cutlet ($36.50) which comes simply served with truffle potato mash, savoy cabbage, wilted spinach and a wedge of lemon. It was *almost* too salty, but apart from that it was moist and filling and the perfect type of comfort food you would expect to find at your Nonna's house.
The menu (complete with its own glossary) is divided into hot and cold entrees (or share dishes), pasta, grill, sides and desserts. It's not actually a very big menu, with very limited choices for vegetarians (two pasta dishes, one hot entrιe and some sides) and if you're thinking of bringing the kids, perhaps think again, as you won't find basics such as spaghetti bolognaise.
Instead there is plenty of seafood on the pasta menu and big serves of meat on the secondi menu including chargrilled sirloin ($39.50), crispy skinned salmon ($34.50) and chargrilled chicken ($34.50).
The spaghettini with Shark Bay crab meat was made with flavoursome fennel, garlic, chilli and parsley and at $29.50 seemed quite expensive for the serve, although there were no complaints about the flavour.
My vegetarian friend had a hard time finding a meal the two meat-free pasta dishes (spinach and ricotta ravioli at $27.50) and wild mushroom risotto ($28.50) weren't to her taste. Instead she combined a starter the leek, pea and mozzarella arancini balls ($13.50) and a salad of rocket, pear and fennel ($10.50).
Desserts are appealing and there were five to choose from when we visited. The affogato probably the most popular combines a cup of espresso, a shot of Frangelico, a bowl of vanilla gelato and an almond biscuit. It perfectly combines dessert and after-dinner coffee ($15.50).
I chose the semifreddo ($14.50), that decadent dessert that sits part way between cream and icecream. It was topped with fancy chocolate fairy floss and sat in a vivid pool of cherry coulis, much more unusual than the typical raspberry coulis.
There are a number of wines by the glass on the main menu, as well as a larger drinks menu.
I couldn't tell you what it was specifically whether it was the happy customers, the delicious smells, the pleasant room or the smiles on the faces of the staff but it was just a really lovely place to be. Seating is intimate with tables relatively close together but it is close enough to smell and admire food without necessarily overhearing conversation.
The room itself avoid stereotypical Italian decorations, instead focusing on interesting finishes and lighting, and apart from a fabulous reproduction of New York in the hall on the way to the bathrooms, there is very little art.
Nolita, incidentally, stands for North of Little Italy a neighbourhood in Manhattan that is wedged between Soho, Noho, Little Ital y and the Lower East Side. There is a great map on the back of your menu, and makes for good table discussion as you find landmarks you may have only ever heard about on TV and in the movies.
Nolita is one of those rare places that are both homey and classic, elegant yet simple. I'll be back.