Date nights have taken Zen and I to all pockets of Sydney. Depending on our moods and cravings, we'll go anywhere from having a cosy night with noodles and dumplings at Ashfield, to driving all the way to Penrith for a game of aqua golf and some piping hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Of course, there are also many other times when a fancy dinner and a movie would suffice.
Cafe Sicilia is perched along Crown Street near Red Lantern, but the rustic old school Italian decor which spills onto the footpath, and the heavily accented waiters will have you thinking you're in Italy. I almost broke into a giggle when our waiter started reading out tonight's specials. They couldn't have set up a more authentic experience!
We're offered housemade bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on arrival. These go hand in hand with the complimentary marinated olives at each table. The bread is soft and fluffy, and while I'm tempted to eat my entire share of them (there's two each), I'm reminded I should save my stomach for the dishes to come.
Still starving at this stage, we decide to do the full Sicilian feasting thing with antipasto, pasta, mains and dessert.
The selection of mixed Italian salumi and cheeses ($33) is simply irresistible. The meats selection consists of prosciutto San Daniele, spicy salami coppa, bresaola, mortadella, rolled pancetta and the cheeses include provolone, gorgonzola dolce, taleggio cheese, grana padano, camembert cheese and pecorino. It's an extremely generous serving size of two to share but we polish most of it off!
For my first course, I try the homemade gnocchi ($25) cooked with fresh Balmain bug meat, cherry tomatoes and balanced with a hint of chilli and garlic. The gnocchi is pillowy soft and is coated with a delicate velvety tomato sauce. The Balmain bug pieces are perfected cooked and the chilli adds some much needed dimension.
Zen has the risotto agli scampi ($27) which is slow cooked in a scampi and pinot rose reduction. Crowned with a whole Western Australian scampi, it's a stunning dish to look at and devour!
The waiter convinces us that the traditional Sicilian seafood cous cous ($27) is a must-try so Zen orders this for his main course. The couscous is poached in a light fish stock and is dressed with a superb showcase of mussels, vongole, calamari, prawns and market daily fresh fish fillets!
Meanwhile, the duck maryland ($28) turns out to be not one, but two duck marylands. I'm a bit intimidated by the size of the dish, having only just eaten the entire plate of gnocchi. But the scent of the blood orange glaze and the savoury goodness of the roast duck wins me over. The accompanying eggplant and spinach millefoglie is a cute and delicious touch.
As ambitious diners, we also order a side dish of roasted potatoes ($12)! They're roasted with pancetta, caramelised onion and parsley and are incredibly scrumptious! However, no matter how many pieces we eat, it still looked like we barely made a dent into it!
For dessert, I couldn't go past the cannolo siciliana ($6), filled with ricotta and finished off decoratively with chopped pistachios, powered sugar, cinnamon and studded with some candied fruits. There is nothing more Sicilian than cannoli and this one is damn good!
Last but not least, we share the granita tasting plate ($10). Small decorative cups of almond, pineapple, pistachio, strawberry granita are served on a plate with four tasting spoons. The granita is almost as smooth as sorbet and the flavours are so refreshingly elegant and vibrant! My favourite flavours are the almond and the strawberry.
For Zen and I, this date night was like a quickie holiday to Italy and back, and we had two very satisfied stomachs as souveniers!
628 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW
Phone: (02) 9699 8787