Italian fare is just as good as mama’s

CARPACCIO is a dish of raw, thinly sliced meat, usually beef.

You probably already know that. But did you know it originated in Venice at Harry's Bar when a Countess requested a dish of raw meat on her doctor's orders?

I've had carpaccio at Harry's Bar in Venice, and last week I had it at Fratellini Ristorante Italiano at Sunshine Beach.

The Sunshine Beach version was every bit as subtle and butter-tender as Harry's, dribbled with good olive oil and topped with shaved parmesan and rocket.

And it cost a fraction of the Harry's Bar version.

Fratellini - a beacon of light and fun at Sunshine Beach with its open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 364 days a year policy - sticks to Italian tradition.

We opted for the special set menu as well as a dip into the a la carte menu...giving ourselves enough options to make dinner interesting.

The carpaccio was on the special menu (two courses and a glass of wine, $35.90, or three courses and a glass of wine, $45.90) prepared by chef Jamie Coller.

For this special menu, Jamie focuses on a different region, town or city of Italy each week, and it was our luck to visit during his dalliance with Venice.

Before the melt-in-mouth carpaccio, we'd shared thick slices of warm stone baked house bread with a freshly made Tuscan chicken liver pate.

There is no need for foie gras when you can have this rich Tuscan pate made without harm to ducks and without cream, but instead healthy olive oil.

With a dish of fat olives and artichokes, it did away with the need for antipasti, although we would have loved the bruschetta, the calamari or the octopus.

We did give in to a big plate of polpette (meatballs) because who could resist such an Italian experience when you are in a trattoria ambience, with splashes of red everywhere, a large bar and walls busy with blackboards?

Made with pork and veal, the meatballs came in a rich tomato sauce, simply dressed with parmesan and rocket.

An Italian mama couldn't have made them any better.

Fratellini owners, Andrew and Cheryl Powell, opened the trattoria three years ago, determined to

give customers a consistent always-open approach.

They dislike the notion of kitchens closing early, and instead have a philosophy of always being there, rain, hail, shine, public holidays, quiet days and even quieter nights.

We like this very much.

The Powells also know how to keep locals coming back, hence the special deals and good a la carte prices.

Then there are the wine dinners and the permanence of their staff (most have been with them since day one) to add to the Fratellini success.

We enjoyed a distinctly international atmosphere during our visit: French and Italian were being spoken at tables nearby, spaghetti and meatballs were going down a treat next to us, pizzas were being picked up to take home by a consistent flow of customers. All that on a rainy night.

Duck featured prominently for us this night. It came in a slowly braised ragu sauce on spaghetti, and also featured in a perfectly cooked risotto.

Like my al dente pasta, the rice in the risotto had been cooked to the point of creaminess yet still with a slight bite. Anyone who has stood patiently stirring a risotto will know that timing is everything in this traditional Italian dish.

There is gnocchi with roast pumpkin and gorgonzola to go back to Fratellini for, linguine marinara and spaghettini with Mooloolaba spanner crab to tempt another time, and papparadelle with roast duck ragu which deserves an encore visit.

Four secondi (main course) dishes - fish, pork, veal, beef - are supplemented by good blackboard specials.

All that, and a separate menu created by pizza Chef Ennio, with all the pizza favourites. .

The regional specials change each week, they started in Sicily, went on to Sardina, Tuscany and Puglia. Who knows where to next? You have to visit and find out.

We finished our dinner on a delicious note with a creamy pannacotta with caramelised fig and fresh honeycomb.

The upcoming wine dinner on April 9 celebrates Mr Riggs wine with five courses matched with the McLaren Vale wines for $79.

IF YOU GO

Fratellini Ristorante Italiano,

36 Duke St,

Sunshine Beach.

Average prices: E: $25; M:$35; D$11, Pizzas $20

Fully licensed.

5474 8080 or visit: fratellini.com.au


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