There’s nothing like Italian hospitality to make you feel at home. It’s like a big warm embrace, straight from the heart.
That’s just how we feel when we dine at The Italian Kitchen.
For starters, the place comes with self-assurance. Not only do owners Robert and Natalie have background as restaurateurs, but they know that they should be here in this place.
For both of them, food is the language of love – the love Robert knew growing up in his Sicilian parents’ kitchen in Sydney, the love he used to woo Natalie by cooking for her and her mother every Saturday, that same dish that he shares with us in their restaurant today.
After winning Natalie’s heart, the pair started their first restaurant, a backstreet pizzeria in Glenford, Sydney when she was just 18. It was the place of lessons learned; a foundation for their return to the Gold Coast five years ago where the pair were stallholders in Miami Marketta, building a catering business and establishing clientele as they saved for their own permanent restaurant.
“It was not just about finding any place. We wanted a community similar to the Marketta but with a solid home,” Natalie tells us, adding that she was returning to her family base on the Gold Coast to put down roots and start a family.
That’s the ‘home’ they found in the former Ristorante Pinocchio, Mermaid Beach, set beside other niche eateries: The Glenelg Public House, Bonita Bonita and Lupo.
Their keen eyes saw structural potential in the venue, replacing the pizza oven but leaving the costly exhaust system in place, leaving the exposed timber beams and ceiling in place, reusing light fittings and recycling furniture for a comfortable cosy look, with a new bar, polished concrete floor and white railway tiles giving the restaurant new life. It’s a tribute to former owner Riccardo’s passion, rewarded by his regular visits as a diner.
Robert heads up the kitchen, his menu “telling the story of his Sicilian heritage with enough entry points for the diner to appreciate the food,” Natalie says.
She points out that his recipes are not only traditional, but many are of his own creation, as is the way in Italian families, each person adding their own creative tweek to recipes handed down through generations.
Since opening mid 2018, life has not been easy for the couple. The recent loss of their unborn child took its toll, rocking them to their foundations. Overcome by grief, they hired extra staff to cover their commitments in the restaurant, Natalie continuing her job as a child psychologist.
But as we move into spring, the couple has regrouped to focus on their passion, a restaurant which truly embraces the Italian spirit, Robert back in the kitchen and Natalie covering front-of-house.
The menu, too, has been revamped to concentrate on pasta, seafood and other local specialties, divided into Antipasti, Secondi and House-made pasta.
We begin our meal with an array of antipasti: delicious thinly-sliced coppa and salami, creamy house-made ricotta, the sensational burrata caprese oozing creamy stracciatella as it’s cut, smoky chargrilled peppers off the chargrill, olives and provolone served with pane di casa bread, balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. It’s the sort of spread we could sit down to on a Friday afternoon with after work drinks; nothing too fancy or overworked, just the very best quality laid out simply.
(It’s just what Friday afternoons are made of at The Italian Kitchen, with ‘Apperitivo’ taking place from 5 – 6pm. Buy your first drink and you’ll get a plate of antipasti free. The evening can progress from there!)
For Secondi, huge prawns straight from the trawlers are cooked in local garlic and olive oil ($19), the tastiest ‘brain food in a plate’ we’ve had in some time. Very moreish, the dish is complemented by BBQ Fremantle octopus served with rocket, lemon and oregano ($19).
Natalie recommends a wine for us to try: 11 Minutes Rosé by Pasqua, a very easy drinking spring wine. The 11 minutes refers to the duration of the skin contact, before being lightly pressed and fermented. The Italian Kitchen carries a well-chosen selection of Australian wines at very competitive prices but, for wine lovers, a hard to get Northern Italian wine such as this is a real treat! As our Andrew Pease glass says, “The good life…bottled!”
Looking for something different? A Sicilian Nero D’Avola complements perfectly the hand-cut house-made Penne Siciliana ($28), tossed with eggplant in a sweet Sicilian napolitana sauce.
For mains, we enjoy BBQ field mushrooms, lightly crumbed Veal Cotoletta, decadent Handmade gnocchi with mushrooms, bacon and cream, and Spinach and ricotta ravioli – our favourite! It’s an absolute feast to share
Finish off with Robert’s Tiramisu, coffee-soaked savoiardi biscuits layered with whipped mascarpone, local free-range eggs, liqueur and cocoa or Handmade cannoli filled with custard.
There are many other dishes on the menu for us to return to: Spaghetti marinara with its medley of octopus, scallops, calamari, prawns and black mussels in napolitana sauce; Sicilian beef polpetti with tomato sugo, or Pappardelle with blue swimmer crab and cherry tomato. And then there are seasonal specials…
“…and the name, The Italian Kitchen?” I ask.
“We have this old black and white photo of the family sitting around the kitchen,” Natalie responds. “It’s about people being together. We want the experience here to be approachable and memorable, as though we are sitting around the table in a large Italian kitchen.”
That’s how we love to dine.
2460 Gold Coast Highway (Cnr Glenelg Ave), Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5575 5955
Open: Sun – Thurs 5pm – late; Fri – Sat 12 noon – late.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guest of The Italian Kitchen.