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Fire up your taste for Italian

IT IS a compliment to a dining room to consistently have queues of enthusiastic patrons lining up on the footpath for

a table.

This scenario takes place consistently at Ciao Italia, a tiny pizzeria and home-style eatery in South Perth – a remarkable feat in our crowded restaurant market.

This is testimony to WA’s intensifying love affair with the Italian cuisine. If spaghetti grew on trees, WA would require a reforestation program.

Ciao Italia has captured south-of-the river tastes. Even on Thursday nights hungry enthusiasts line up waiting patiently for a table to clear and turnover.

This goes hand-in-hand with the queues that are common over the weekends. This crowded little trattoria is a cheap and cheerful place that refuses reservations, but a bonus is the phenomenal pizza take-away, home delivery business.

It sits on a former deli site on the busy corner of Douglas Avenue and Mill Point Road. This is something of a complete, culinary corner because the popular Book Cafe is opposite and an outstanding butchering chop of the Clayton dynasty is on the other corner.

If a feed of traditional fish and chips is your thing, the store next door will satisfy you.

Ciao Italia is a fairly new, bright spot that seems to come from nowhere.

Cleverly, the tables in the room are dressed with red and white gingham checks, waiters compliment the mood in their traditional black and white garb. Added to the atmosphere is the wood-fired oven, which commands an important place in the successful formula.

Home delivery people come and go collecting pizzas from this wood-fired oven that blazes away in the corner while you dine.

The coming and going of the pizza people adds to the squeezy feel of the trattoria, but nobody appears to mind, they just seem grateful to have secured a chair.

This impressive little place adds to the credibility of South Perth’s growing number of eateries.

Pizzas and pasta might dominate the menu, but there is a selection of home cooked veal, chicken and seafood dishes.

Ciao Italia offers all the predictable favourites and it is good to see a menu where only a single dish breaks the $20 mark – most are well below.

The small menu offers dishes such as saltimbocca alla Romana, the pan-fried veal medallions capped with prosciutto and tiny leaves of fresh sage in a white wine sauce is a perfect example, served with vegetables, the chefs got this one right ($18.50).

Another familiar dish is the veal medallions in a distinctive, creamy Marsala wine sauce, also served with vegetables ($16).

Pollo alla griglia was the stand out chicken dish of the three on offer. A half chicken marinated in the cook’s marinade, which I suspect is white wine, rosemary, lemon juice and garlic. The chook was then grilled slowly to preserve succulence and served with a continental salad ($17).

Popular around the room was cozze pescatora, the local farmed black mussels. Huge serves in Ciao Italia’s own tomato sauce at $17 were in demand. Most of the bulk was made up of the gleaming black shells.

After raiding the mussel flesh, the delicacy is the sauce for which great crusty bread is served. Or the garlic infused bread is perfect for enjoying the saucy soup ($3).

Pasta dominates the menu with eight of the 300 pasta styles and shapes available in the world. While only the best-known pasta is available, the sauces, which after all are the essence of this food, are more widely spread.

One sauce on the short tubes of pasta known as penne was the vodka sauce of tomato, cream, spring onions and bacon ($14). Penne also comes with the chilli hot arrabiata, a tomato-based sauce with olives and garlic ($14).

The classic Neapolitan sauce is the Italians’ long-simmered version of the French ragout, a stew, but only the title is the same, with the Italians making their most famous of pasta sauces.

The Neapolitan is rich but meatless, consisting of tomato, basil, onion, carrot and celery. Purists might reserve this for spaghetti and macaroni, but at Ciao Italia, it’s available on all pasta dishes including gnocchi ($14).

Pizzas begin at $12.50 rising to $18. They include the calabrese of mozzarella, mild sausage, onion, roast capsicum, tomato and chilli ($15). There is a smoked salmon pizza with capers, ricotta and tomato sauce, mozzarella, avocado and chopped tomatoes ($18). With anchovies and olives added to mozzarella and the neapolitan sauce that is everywhere at Ciao Italia, comes a fine pizza named after the sauce ($15).

The short and long of Ciao Italia is that it’s a wonderful place that’s an asset to South Perth and you can either ensure you and the gourmet get there early, or queue.

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