Satisfy Your Italian Cravings in Subiaco

Subiaco has a culinary beating heart which is Italian so Di Bortoletto ate her way around some of the suburb’s best-loved venues, discovering new favourites along the way.

The beauty of Italian food is that it’s as varied as it is tasty, with all bases covered [pun intended] from fast food to fine dining, to carb-loading and clean eating, vegetarian, vegan, sweet treats and everything in between. In fact, in 1851, Subiaco was named after an Italian town, and true to its roots, it’s home to some great Italian eateries.

Dilly Dally

At Dilly Dally, there’s no rush to be on your way, they want you to feel like you can linger for longer. Named to invoke a sense of fun, the cheeky title is a far cry from its serious hospitality offering. From the outside, the place is super-welcoming with its bright terracotta facade. Inside the new fitout showcases the large space retaining some of the building’s heritage set with space between the tables, exposed brick in some areas, graffiti wall art in others, and different nooks and rooms that make this big restaurant still feel intimate.

The experienced owners not only love Italian food and wine, but they love how much Italians enjoy their food and wine, both in its preparation and eating. Head chef Peter Hajdu has put together an Italian-inspired menu focusing on share plates both large and small and pizzas. Dilly Dally is the sort of place that’s equally comfortable for a coffee, a drink or two with a few bites, a long grazing lunch as well as a mega feast with the whole family, or dinner for two with your special someone.

Greeted warmly by the general manager Patrick Ryan when we walked in one Saturday for lunch, our negronis were wonderfully balanced, the perfect apertivo ahead of a lunch that both surprised and delighted.

As a first-time visitor and fuss pot when it comes to Italian food (check out my surname), I didn’t know what to expect at Dilly Dally. I walked in a sceptic and walked out a raving fan. Perhaps it was the inviting and comfortable surrounds, the mix of heritage and modern features, or perhaps it was the professional service that included advice on a wine at our price point. One thing’s for sure, the food was bang-on.

The smoked eggplant with whipped ricotta, pistachio, mint and pomegranate was not typically Italiano, but it was so good that it’s safe to say I’ll return for that dish alone, but I could be out of luck as the menu does change every few weeks. The grilled prawns, white beans, roast tomato and nduja was a great blend of char, spice and texture. We opted for pasta for lunch, both excellent choices in spaghettini vongole and casarecce with duck ragù, which happens to also be Patrick’s favourite dish.

Patrick says that there are two dishes that have featured on Dilly Dally’s menu since day one, the lamb and the pork and veal meatballs with spicy sugo. “Our braised lamb shoulder is a dish that you need to share with friends and make a bit of a mess while you’re doing it,” Patrick says.

Fast five with Dilly Dally’s Patrick Ryan

It’s Monday night, you’re at home on a day off, what do you eat for dinner?
My partner and I love cooking together, so it is always decided from what we see at the butchers or what we have in the fridge. It was veal cotoletta last week.

Does the menu change, if so how often?
We change dishes every few weeks, depending on what is available and how they are selling.

Besides your restaurant, where do you like to eat in Subiaco?
Lulu la Delizia is a favourite as is Lady of Ro.

If someone can’t get a booking at your restaurant, what other Italian restaurants would you suggest?
Lulu would be my first option but also Piccolo Trattoria in Shenton Park.

What do you love about Subiaco?
It’s a beautiful, leafy suburb that has a really strong community/village feel about it. The locals have been very welcoming.

If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?
Double espresso – sharp, to the point and not to everyone’s liking.

Visit Dilly Dally at 87 Rokeby Road, make a booking here.

Cherubino City Cellar

Cherubino City Cellar

Image: Frances Andrijich

Opening at the end of 2020, Cherubino City Cellar seems to have not only survived the pandemic but thrived. It’s almost like a secret speakeasy because it’s tricky to find but it’s definitely worth seeking out. Its entrance is via a back laneway behind Simon Johnson, and when you walk upstairs, it instantly feels like you’ve been transported to another world, an exclusive club full of interesting people, art, walls of wine and designer touches in a space that’s divided into intimate areas with sofas, tables and chairs, coffee tables and bar seating. On my visit on a random Wednesday night, the place was packed to the skylights with not a spare seat in sight.

Owners Larry Cherubino and Edwina Egerton-Warburton have lived in Subiaco for 18 years.

“We have always talked about opening something in the city, and once we opened our cellar door in Margaret River a few years ago, it gave us a bit more courage to do something else when the perfect space presented itself,” Edwina says.

“The locals have been incredibly supportive and we’ve seen a steady increase in trade, even on our quieter days, Wednesday and Thursday. We’ve been very lucky with the small number of lockdowns we’ve had to endure too; let’s hope that continues.”

The husband and wife team designed Cherubino City Cellar to operate as a wine store, cellar door and a bar. The excellent wine list features many Italian, Margaret River and Great Southern wines as well their own labels, namely, AD Hoc, The Yard, Laissez Faire, Pedestal, Apostrophe and Cherubino.

The menu is distinctly Italian with dishes such as burrata with truffle honey, pistachio ciabatta, Wagyu bresaola, goats curd, rucola, house-made lasagne, and veal cotoletta with Italian slaw and cannoli.

“We love the simplicity of the salsiccia – a classic Calabrese sausage specially made for us by Torre butchers in Northbridge served with good bread and a squeeze of lemon. The burrata is also hugely popular.

Edwina says that interestingly their least Italian offering, sausage rolls, have been on the menu from the beginning and when they took them off for a break, there was a an uproar.

Fast five with Cherubino’s Edwina Egerton-Warburton

It’s Monday night, you’re at home on a day off, what do you eat for dinner?
We have three hungry boys so most meals involve protein. Loving the crumbed lamb chops from Torre lately with some roast potatoes and lentil salad.

Where do you go to buy Italian ingredients?
Simon Johnson for specialty items and amazing cheese, Farmer Jacks for everything else.

Besides your place, where do you like to eat in Subiaco?
Lady of Ro is at the end of our street so we love going there, Dilly Dally is great and we often take the kids to Edo Japanese for a mid-week treat with the family.

If someone can’t get a booking at City Cellar, what other Italian restaurants would you suggest to them?
Lulu La Delizia is brilliant.

What do you love about Subiaco?
Its heritage feel, being able to walk to work, bars and restaurants and having a great high street, namely Rokeby Road.

If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?
I would be a cappuccino, fluffy and sweet on the outside but lurking beneath is something more serious.

Visit Cherubino City Cellar at 169-171 Rokeby Road, make a booking here.

Lulu La Delizia

Lauded by pasta lovers across Australia, Lulu La Delizia has become an institution. The one-hatted trattoria puts its focus on executing a small menu perfectly. There are four pasta dishes to choose from including a special that changes often, keeping things interesting for regular diners. It’s the pasta itself, made fresh in-house daily, that becomes the highlight of the dish rather than merely a vehicle to carry the sauce.

The menu is inspired by the culinary traditions of Friuli, in the far north-east of Italy, a homage to the heritage of chef and owner Joel Valvasori.

Walking in – but my advice is not to walk in, make sure you have a booking well in advance, it’s always packed – the greeting is warm and the small dining room looks cosy, intentionally designed like a nonna’s house, complete with lace curtains; the restaurant is named after Joel’s grandmother.

There are a few signature dishes that people travel to Lulu’s for, and they’re worth the journey.

“Our menu is based around a couple of dishes from our family table. My Nonna’s meatball recipe which we serve with soft polenta and Parmigiano Reggiano, as well as the Tagliatelle della Delizia, which is her version of a meat ragu,” says Joel.

After hearing that, I tried both dishes and the meatballs in polenta transported me right back to my own nonna’s kitchen, who grew up in the adjacent Italian region of Veneto. The texture of the polenta was lusciously smooth yet thick, and the seasoning was spot on, almost exactly how I’d remembered it as a child. It took an immense amount of will power not to use my finger to scrape out every last morsel – I’d already devoured the freshly baked bread and vegetable sugo.

Each strand of the generous serve of tagliatelle pasta was al dente and well coated with the rich meat ragu made traditionally with veal, pork and red wine.

The saffron spaghettini with clams was bright with a little garlicky heat which my Greek dining partner just loved. It’s Joel’s favourite pasta to eat at the moment and he describes it as a delicious buttery take on a traditional spaghetti vongole.

Joel says that it’s the available ingredients that tend to inspire his dishes.

“When we know something is coming into season we start to work out how we’re going to deliver its beauty.”

Fast five with chef Lulu La Delizia’s Joel Valvasori

It’s Monday night, you’re at home on a day off, what do you eat for dinner?
I tend to cook a lot over fire at home. I find there to be a great ritual involved in setting and tending to the fire, and I just love the rewards you get from the flavour of the wood smoke.

Where do you go to buy Italian ingredients?
Simon Johnson sells a few really good products that we use from vinegars to anchovies and especially the cheeses.

Besides your restaurant, where do you like to eat in Subiaco?
I like to get out in Subi and support the local businesses that I think are doing good things. I’ll often go to Dilly Dally, Fenway, Cherubino and Juanitas as well as getting takeaway from Fee Fi
Pho Fum and Delisio. We always send people next door to our friends at Dilly Dally if we can’t get them a spot.

What do you love about Subiaco?
I spent a fair bit of time around Subiaco growing up, so I have a long standing affection for the place. It’s hard to find a more beautiful high street in Perth.

Have you seen a shift in Subiaco since you opened Lulu La Delizia in 2016? In what way?
It was sad to see it lose its mojo several years back, but I really feel as though it has started to build again over the last couple of years. There are some great operators stepping into the area, especially in the hospitality sector which is great for everyone.

If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?
I’ve always drunk my coffee ristretto. Strong, no BS.

Visit Lulu La Delizia​ at 5/97 Rokeby Road, make a booking here.

Restaurant Caleb

Situated in a heritage building tucked back from the bustle on Railway Road, Restaurant Caleb has recently been named Best Italian Restaurant in WA, with its owner and chef named Best Chef of Year at the 2021 WA Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards.

Restaurant Caleb’s menu isn’t your standard traditional Italian fare. Chef Caleb Azuka adds his own interpretations influenced from his experience working in restaurants in Italy, France and USA, including with the chef considered to be the master of modern Italian cuisine, Massimo Bottura in Modena.

Inside, the tables are spaced nicely apart and the open kitchen at the back is an efficient yet quiet space of concentration as chefs plate dish after pretty dish which are delivered by friendly waitstaff to the packed dining room. Green leafy plants soften the black and white palette of the urban industrial interior. There’s a roof top bar too which will be an excellent spot for an Aperol spritz as the weather warms up.

Three crisp-coated arborio rice balls in ‘A journey of arancini’ sit on a bed of slow-cooked beetroot and tomato sauce, Gingin goat camembert and balsamic glaze and were wolfed down, my significant other mopping up every drop of sauce with the woodfired bread that came with the ‘famous burrata’, which is made from scratch. The mozzarella, tied like a money bag, oozes mascarpone cheese and infused truffle honey, centred by a moat of Modena balsamic vinegar, aged for 24 years. The handmade crustacean pasta has generous chunks of butter-poached lobster, scampi and prawns, all deliciously coated in a saffron champagne sauce. The serving size meant my husband finished my dish after he inhaled his ragu Australiana made with slow-braised kangaroo and beef. The attention to detail when it comes to plating is Instagram-worthy.

African-born Chef Caleb always dreamed of having his name on the door, and his dream was realised in October 2020 when Restaurant Caleb opened. He visits each dining table to chat to greet diners and chat to guests.

Raised in Bologna from a young age, Caleb’s food journey is a common one, influenced by his mother and grandmother who owned a trattoria which is where he spent his childhood afternoons rather than out playing with his friends.

Caleb is also passing on his knowledge, teaching Certificate III in Commercial Cookery at Kingston College as well as running his own cooking classes every Tuesday at the restaurant along with special focus classes such as making mozzarella or cooking with truffles on selected Saturdays.

Fast Five with Chef Caleb

What’s your favourite dish to make for diners at Restaurant Caleb?
My famous burrata as everything is made from scratch.

Does the menu change, if so how often?
The menu changes seasonally as it is based on local and seasonal produce.

What’s your favourite pasta dish to eat?
Spaghetti with seafood.

It’s Monday night, you’re at home on a day off, what do you eat for dinner?
Lamb cutlets or racks served with baked vegetables and a red wine sauce.

What do you love about Subiaco?
The people and the village vibe even though it’s an inner city suburb. The whole community have been very supportive of my new business.

If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?
Espresso – short but powerful and full of taste.

Visit Restaurant Caleb at 23 Railway Road, make a booking here.

Andiamo: Best of the rest

Italian wine lovers could also call into at Juanita’s for a glass of vino and platter of salumi. Simon Johnson, providore of fine food, stocks many great Italian ingredients like cheese, olives, olive oils, anchovies and more.

For pizza lovers on the go, there’s Roman-style pizza al taglio, sold by the slice, at Delisio, with thick fluffy crust and toppings like fresh mozzarella, ham and mushroom or potato and rosemary, just like it’s served in the Eternal City. You can also dine in and there’s a large selection of pasta all priced under $22 and pizzas made to order.

The Woodpeckers specialises in authentic wood-fired pizza and has been a Subiaco stalwart for 20 years. Open for lunch, dinner and takeaway, each pizza is made to order the traditional way, hand-stretched, topped with home-made sauce and quality toppings. There are pasta, sides and main dishes offered on the dinner menu.

Subiaco is known for coffee and with a café every few metres, that’s another whole article. If you’re keen to recreate caffe Italiano at home, then call into The Corner Store for a range of Bialetti moka stove top coffee makers and cute espresso cups, among a mega range of other gorgeous things.

Also in Shenton Park is Piccolo Trattoria, and as the name suggests, it’s a small space that’s buzzing and noisy, not dissimilar to a trattoria in Sicily, the region which has influenced the menu. It’s casual, BYO and better suited to groups than a romantic dinner for two. The mouth-watering dishes, home-style pastas and simple meat dishes are all well priced which makes this little joint very popular. Be sure to book well in advance.

Wholefood Circus in Shenton Park is a local gourmet providore and artisan delicatessen that includes readymade meals and some delicious panini. Twice per week, Mr Gnocchi operates out of the Circus and he’s the one to call if you’re looking to learn to make soft pillowy Italian dumplings. Napoli-born Orlando Scolese AKA Mr Gnocchi runs a different kind of cooking class. For one, he’s mobile, so you can gather some of your best foodie friends, or those that could do with a lesson or two and have a fun few hours in your own home learning how to make different kinds of gnocchi. You’ll also learn how to make six sauces such as pumpkin, walnut and gorgonzola, or ragu of ossobuco with stracciatella.

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