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Honest Italian grub

WHENEVER you travel interstate or for that matter overseas you never want to look like a tourist (never go out with a West Coast Eagles jumper on it’s a dead give away).

I am always trying to find someone who can take me out or who can point me in the direction of, the “happening” places in the city you have arrived in.

This can be a little troublesome in somewhere like Mongolia where the chances of knowing someone are far less great than say landing in Sydney or London (which really is just an outer suburb of Australia anyway).

But nothing is better than to be shown a city in full swing by someone from that same city. I visited Chicago and had the best meal of ribs; followed by the listening to the best blues with a couple of students I had hooked up with on the Greyhound coming into Chicago. I don’t know if I could have had that same experience if I had just wondered aimlessly into any old rib joint and any old blues bar.

With that in mind I took a couple of interstate work colleagues for dinner to one of Subiaco’s more funky and lively places to eat.

Now you need to bear in mind that this was a Sunday night and I was hosting for one night only and it was a school night the next day.

It was tempting to educate them with a traditional Perth Sunday session at the Left Bank or even with the delights of the Cottesloe Hotel’s beer garden.

Funtastico opened last August after Albasio La Pegna, of Pronto and Bellismo fame, found an opportunity to redevelop part of the Subiaco Markets into a restaurant site.

Having already established the successful Bellisimo and Pronto restaurants, it was hard to not see this new venture fitting into the same successful groove.

The restaurant is modern and it is lively, the décor is simple yet stylish, it pretty simply has really good atmosphere.

You can’t book a table, which can be a bit annoying if you are in a group, or like me you have people you are guiding (you can look like a bit of a mug if you are not prepared).

Fortunately we could be seated straight away but on Friday and Saturday nights expect a wee delay.

We took our seat in the hub of the restaurant and settled in with a look over the menu and a refreshing glass of water, while in front of us pretty much as we had sat down, staff were coming in from all angles.

My guests and I decided on an antipasto plate while we acquainted ourselves with a bottle of Devils Lair 5th leg white.

The thing about busy funky restaurants is the great cross-section of people that you find eating around you.

In the restaurant were families with young children, mum and dad catching up with sibling and new girlfriend (or boyfriend), couples and a group of what looked like business men but could have been football stars, it was hard to tell.

The antipasto plate arrived before we had time to get more than a mouthful or two of the wine down the hatch.

The plate came with most of the usual aspects, the artichokes a favourite, along with eggplant that had been marinated in balsamic vinegar; this was “fantastico”.

I am an Italian sausage lover and to have a few slices joining the rest of the delights would have made the dish.

But we didn’t ask and you may be able to get the chef to add a few slices on for you.

The waiter attending the table next to us seemed very willing and also able to help in changing or adapting a dish to suit the diners requesting a vegetarian alternative to a menu item.

The main courses ordered were of healthy proportions and didn’t really need an accompanying dish, however, you can never have enough greens, so we had a bowl of mixed greens to try and help begin the week on a healthy note.

I chose the risotto of the day with veal and blue costello tossed through, and although very rich and filling it was all one would want from risotto.

One of my colleagues ordered the baked seafood carbonnara, which was presented in a bag and unfolded into his bowl, again a healthy portion with lots of seafood, including prawns, and scallops with plenty of flavour.

My other colleague had the duck with fig and mashed potato, which was quite scrumptious, although a little more sauce would have given the dish an extra bonus point.

The menu gives you plenty to chose from and as you would guess with a name like Funtastico the restaurant is Italian and the food therefore falls into that flavour, with pasta and traditional wood-fired pizzas well worth a try.

The couple sitting behind our table couldn’t speak better about their choice of pizza, adding that they would eat there once a week.

The food gives you value for money, not much glitz just honest tasty Italian grub. Belissimo.

For a Sunday night the place was full, maybe a few empty chairs, and the atmosphere was alive. It is quite noisy, although this seems to add not detract from the atmosphere in the restaurant.

The place is alive and is vibrant; you can’t fault the service from the staff. All were very friendly and prompt.

We were there to relax, have a bottle of wine and watch the happenings around us.

For a stress-free, easy-going yet lively night out Funtastico is worth a visit, and it is not going to set you back a month’s mortgage payment.

Others that offer the same sort of deal:

Café Bellissimo,

3 Bay View Terrace,

Claremont, 9385 3588.

Grapeskin Bar and Cellar,

next to Brass Monkey,

209 William Street,

Northbridge, 9227 9655.

Mezzonine,

49 King Street,

Perth, 9481 1148.

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