Hungry Hinch

Forget the Spag Bol…

 

Cipri
10 Elizabeth Street
Paddington
Sydney

02 9331 3333

 

If you cast even a cursory glance over my antecedents you would wonder how  this culinary primitive ever got to evolve into the Hungry  Hinch.

As a teenaged (pretending to be 21) journalist across the ditch in New Zealie, the only restaurant experience I had was after the ‘six o’clock swill’ when, with a belly full of flat beer, we staggered into the local fish shop for the standard dish of ‘ shteakeggshnchips’.

By the time I got from the Taranaki Herald in New Plymouth to the Christchurch Star my dining horizons had broadened.  In the big smoke, on a Sunday night we’d go to the local Chinese before going to the ‘fleas and itches’ (the pictures).

Even though it was a Chinese restaurant, the most popular dish on the menu was Indonesian: nasi goreng. From memory, it had an inordinate amount of peas in it with egg, fried rice and a couple of small prawns.

And then I got to Sydney, still a teenager (pretending to be 24) and got a job as a Police Roundsman on the Sydney Sun.  It was there I discovered the ‘Italos’ – the Italian Club on Broadway across from Central Station.

It was a journo’s paradise. For a few shillings you got a basket of often-stale bread, a huge plate of spaghetti bolognaise and a carafe of ‘rough red’ table wine.  We called it claret – God knows what it really was.

My love affair with Italian restaurants was on. Even dined at Umbetto’s Clam House in   New York’s Little Italy a  couple of  weeks after Crazy Joe  got it on the half shell, so to speak, when the Mafia punk was executed at his daughter’s birthday party.

In Melbourne it was Stefani’s, Marcellino’s, The Latin, Romeo’s and Catta’s – a place where Bob Rogers and I used to play cards in the backroom every Tuesday afternoon served by a bumbling waiter I nicknamed El Fuquito  even though he was Italian. (Couldn’t get what I originally called him to air).

In Sydney we stuck to Mario’s, Beppi’s and Darcy’s.  We kept, and keep, going back to Beppi’s for two reasons. Me, because it was always one placed where I could get genuine New Zealand whitebait and not mini-sardines passed off as the Kiwi delicacy.

Bob dined there the night his second daughter Brett was born. Beppi gave him some dessert to take to new mother Jerry in the hospital. Brett is now over 50.

All of this is an exceedingly indulgent and long-winded way of introducing a new Italian discovery: Cipri, tucked away in Paddington.

As Jack Nicholson would say: This is as good as it gets.

I’m not good at Italian  so I’ll just say: ‘ Maialino con cavolo ross, mostardo di Cremona e pistacchio’.

That’s Italian for one of the best dishes I’ve eaten in a long time and I’m not even much of a meat eater. Never eat beef (except for Japanese Shabu Shabu) and rarely eat pork. Even free range.

This was ever-so-slow roasted suckling pig from the Hawkesbury served with red cabbage salad, mustard fruits and pistachio nuts.

That followed the best, plump figs wrapped in prosciutto and served with a gorgonzola sauce. And they were followed by oven grilled monster prawns and WA  scampi.  How long has this been going on?

I was introduced to Cipri by my new Bestie, better known as EP of Sunday Night – the Cadell Evans of the Seven Network – Mark Llewellyn.

On my first of several  visits to Cipri, I’d just stepped off a 14-hour flight from LA ( during which I spent most of the time fighting a stomach bug in the loo)  but still managed a plate of  zucchini flowers stuffed with prawns and ricotta  on a puree of capsicum and some  made-there  bread.

 Three Cipri brothers run the restaurant. Joe and Anthony with Carmelo in the kitchen. Maria, their mum, also sometimes drops in to lend a hand.

 

Don’t be fooled by the old sepia photos of a traditional wedding and christening  adorning this article. This is real Italian cooking but tradition has bent to make way for some stunning  Oz-Italian  dishes.

 I promise you: It’s a far cry from the Italos.

 

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