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Published August 24th 2012
The irresistible Italian on The Parade
A birthday celebratory dinner had me down memory lane revisiting a favourite haunt of mine from school days - The European Cafe. Like old forgotten things that gathered dust on the shelf, I realised I had neglected to dine at The European for a number of years. I could not even explain the reason for this as I remembered I always enjoyed my meals here. So tonight, from the recesses of my mind, fond memories of eating here were brought back to the surface.
Running half an hour late and trying to find a nearby park on the always busy Norwood Parade, I managed to locate a two hour parking spot. Very lucky considering it was late night shopping on Thursday in the suburbs.
Walking with a hurried pace to avoid as much of the gusty wind and heavy rain that had taken hold of Adelaide lately, I found myself nearing The European. From the outside, The European had not changed much. They still had some tables and chairs outside for alfresco dining - not that anyone in their right mind would choose to do so on a night like this.
A quick glance through the large glass windows brought a small wave of panic. A booking for fifteen people - in the small crammed space that is The European - surely I should be able to see a familiar face, especially being half an hour late. Perhaps I had the venue wrong.
As soon as I stepped in, a smiling waitress approached, and I queried about a large booking having been made. Before I could finish, she was already nodding her head and whisking me around the side through a doorway. A short walk down a corridor led me to a fairly sizeable dining space at the back. Through all those years that I had frequented this cafe, I never knew there was this hidden room with bright red walls within - great for holding functions and large groups. My group of friends were already warming up to drinks.
After ordering a glass of Serafino Merlot, which I could only describe as muddy, complimentary table bread arrived. The lovely hot bread with olives embedded within was a nice change from the norm.
A friend highly recommended their gnocchi with gorgonzola, raving about how he still could not get the taste out of his head since he last ate at The European a few weeks ago. I almost caved into his powers of persuasion but when meat and seafood are available on a menu, there is very little chance of me choosing a vegetarian dish.
Two of my companions ordered Salsicce con Polenta - pork sausage with polenta. The pork sausages were served with onion and tomato salsa with sauteed spinach. The polenta was crispy. Now this latter dish had a mixed review. One loved it and the other said it was acceptable. The reason for the sausage dish not living up to expectations was that the sausage meat was not firm-like - it was still relatively soft.
I did not get to try the Crab Linguine which had a rosette sauce of onion, chilli and baby spinach, but it was described to me as "bursting with flavours". Another friend said it was like "Christmas in the mouth". I liked that. It sounded magical.
The Spaghetti Marinara had a lovely hint of fresh tomato flavour and was well seasoned. The flavours were well balanced with all the right ingredients and was not overly oily as could be found with Spaghetti Marinara at some places.
The Barramundi, a special of the day, was cooked perfectly. It was very fresh, evident by the lack of an unpleasant fish odour. The skin was very crispy and when done like this became a highly anticipated taste sensation for me. The tomato based sauce with bits of capsicum in it surrounded the barramundi. The flavours were pleasantly sour, salty and sweet with a wonderful hint of lemon. It was simply divine.
The Pesce in Umido was utterly delicious. Slightly spicy, it was brimming with fresh barramundi, prawns, squid and mussel with onion, chilli, potatoes, tomato and basil. The flavours were deep and harmonious. It came with a small slice of garlic bread which already on its own could have been well credited. More bread could have been offered to mop up the sauce but it was so good, I simply had to finish it off with a spoon.
The Filletto was a Black Angus fillet steak served with mash potato and mushroom sauce. It must have been almost perfect otherwise the 'steak afficionado' in our midst would have voiced his dissatisfaction loud and clear.
With such good Italian food at The European, we conversed much on the culinary greatness of true Italian food. Florentine steak in Florence, pizza in Rome and Naples, carbonara in Rome, bolognese in Bologna and the list went on. What was so amazing about food in Italy was the simplicity. A simple snack of pizza or plate of pasta in Italy could easily be overlooked but once you had a taste, you were simply blown away. How could such simple food be so tasty? Good quality ingredients had to be the key.
The night had to come to an end and we were brought back to reality. We were not in Italy, but The European Cafe almost took us there. With wooden decor, reminiscent of some cafes in Europe, The European is a family owned business that did not disappoint. It was a pleasure to rediscover this gem of a cafe again.
Great review Yin Yin, and obviously you've eaten in Italy.
I went here once to try a new place; however, this place is not for those on a limited budget, as there was nothing reasonably priced here. We felt overlooked by the waiting staff, possibly as we spent a while just trying to find a simple meal at a reasonable price. We were not looking for the whole gourmet experience, just something tasty we could afford, as it was not an occasion. It was your birthday, so your crew were obviously prepared to pay for a celebratory meal. The European, for me, is not a quick mid-week, grab some Italian type of place. It is however, a well established eatery, as you had noted; family run, traditional, but surely some more reasonably priced eating options wouldn't go astray. For a family, this place would be out of the question, with today's living costs. The food you showed looked great and your descriptions really inspiring, however, for me, once bitten, twice shy (for want of a better term), and now, even if I was celebrating an event and was prepared to spend more therefore, I would probably think more of Ambrosini on Magill Rd (Stepney end), or even Martini Ristorante on The Parade also, but closer to the city. Both of these also have good names. For me, though, you can't get past the bustling, family like (also well established) atmosphere of Cafe Buongiorno, at any time. In my opinion, this is an affordable place, with pizza to die for, good pasta and GREAT CHIPS, according to youngest child, who partakes regularly there. I do know someone who wasn't similarly impressed, but hell, it takes all kinds, doesn't it?