Monday, 1 June 2009

nero italian restuarant/cafe/bar @ oxford st., epping

It was with a little convincing and foot-stamping that J agreed to head to Epping with me on Saturday. I know it's bad of me cause he's got an exam this weekend but my way of thinking is that regardless what you have on, you still need to eat! And the thing is, it wasn't going to take long to go out and eat and come back and really, I wasn't going to spend TOO long at Sweetness - The Patisserie (which was the main point of me wanting to go to Epping). Ok, maybe that is my bad...

As luck would have it, we found a spot just out side the Patisserie. I ducked in quickly, checked what time they closed (realised that they were open till 5 so we had heaps of time) and well, came back out and asked J the question of what he wanted to eat. I do try and compromise! He didn't really have a preference and all we ended up doing was look across the road and headed into 'Nero - Italian restaurant/cafe/bar'. From outside, it looks more like a cafe than restaurant and so you can imagine our surprise after we walked in and was shown a much larger area at the back and the fact that they had beers on tap!

Photo from where I was sitting. 
Our drinks. I can't remember exactly how much the beer was but J got rather excited that it was tap beer and that it hardly costed anything. I question how much he remembered the afternoon or his studies after that beer got to the table - he was happily chugging away.
Herb bread ($3.00). I'm pretty sure that this was made on bread baked in-house. Tasty!
There's a real mix of items on the menu - your standard cafe items, all day breakfast etc. but being a restaurant also, they have some more traditional Italian meals. There's a huge range of pasta dishes to choose from and the list of pastas is what caught our eye. J's preference is for tomato based sauces so he picked the 'Spaghetti Prawns Arrabbiata' (prawns pan cooked with garlic, chilli and tomato salsa, served with spaghetti in a paella dish). I'm usually a bit skeptical of prawns when I eat them outside but the chef did a good job with this one - there was a decent serving of prawns and they were cooked just right!

On the other hand, I'm a big fan of cream based sauces. I picked a more traditional pasta, the Spaghetti Carbonara (spaghetti with bacon, onion, pepper, egg, cheese and nutmeg in a cream and wine sauce). I happily dug through this dish and was just short of licking the bowl. Probably could've stopped 2/3 of the way through as later that afternoon, I started to feel a little uncomfortable from how full I was. Don't get me wrong - this was no fault of the lovely chef who came to the table to check that our meal was going ok, it was just me eating to quickly and too greedily!

Whilst prices aren't your cheapest, our pastas were $19.90 and $15.90 respectively (note that they do have daily specials which are much cheaper - there's a pasta meal deal including 1x garlic or herb bread, pasta of the day, 1 glass of white or red wine or soft drink) and whilst tempting, trust me, there's plenty of other items on the menu that will tempt you.

In particular, I have to commend the friendliness of staff, especially the chef who came to the table and checked that we were doing ok with our meal. He was honest and discouraged us from ordering too much to start off with and even when our meals came and were licked clean, he says to us 'That was bad wasn't it?' We could only laugh and assure him that the meal was fantastic, no complaints whatsoever! And that is the truth!


Stephcookie said...

Oh excellent! Thanks for much for the review, I've always walked past this place and wondered what it was like but never got around to trying it. Sounds a bit pricey though! I LOOOVE Sweetness, isn't it great? I have to avoid it or I will buy the whole patisserie out.

Anonymous said...

A chef that comes to check if you are happy? What a great idea!

panda said...

steph - it looks really dim at the front of the cafe but it's much brighter at the back so keep that in mind. And yes, I know what you mean about Sweetness - I had to stop myself from picking up one of everything! The great thing though is that everyone inside the shop has a smile on their face which makes it such a lovely little place.

NQN - the chef here was a really friendly man and actually went up to each table. he had staff on the floor but he was involved in absolutely everything! I'm sure if you were to come here, he'd give you the same warm greeting :)