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Perugino perfection

Perugino is one of Perth’s special places and certainly rates among our finest restaurants.

The eating place in Outram Street, West Perth, is an institution in this city. All the hallmarks of excellence have been in place for a long time.

Its success is due to the Lilliputian owner-chef’s passion for excellence – the rare quality of absolute consistency is firmly in place.

Guiseppe Pagliaricci is a dictatorial overseer, whose fiefdom is Perugino, where the bulk of his life is spent. Sunday is his only day of rest.

The man is a “flavour-master” – a perfectionist who crafts magnificent dishes from simple ingredients.

Dishes are never overpowered by herbs, seasonings, cheeses or the variety of flavour-givers in his repertoire, yet you can expect tantilising and seamless sensations in the wake of their combination.

The chef is an intense man but there is a shaft of humour that beams between clouds of intimidation.

He rules the restaurant from the kitchen.

Indeed, he continually oversees the cooking factory but, even when the pressure is on and kitchen deadlines are pressing, Guiseppe is still a presence on the restaurant floor.

Suitably dressed in traditional chef’s costume, he is likely to serve dishes to tables, discuss a wine choice with knowledge, or simply enjoy a quick chat that might include a recipe.

Somehow, his time seems balanced with each table, each cluster of guests.

A colourful touch of theatre, the thespian in him obviously enjoys the role and it certainly works for the patrons.

This, after all, is a people business.

Perugino is named after the golden city of Perugia, in Guiseppe’s native province of Umbria.

It is a city travel brochures idolise when they trumpet: “Perugia crowns a hill like another Acropolis”.

Perugino hardly sits on the crown of Outram Street, but the regional dishes that come out of the small kitchens are a coronet of excellence.

But Perugino is more than food – it is a restaurant sans shortcuts. The dinner service is excellent, as is the fine glassware, and the tables are dressed white with great refinement.

A fresh, burgundy rose adorns each table and an exuberance of the same elegant flowers greet diners at the entrance.

Like the sign of Venus, the roses are the sign of Rosalba, the hard-working wife of Guiseppe.

A novice at Perugino might do well to indulge in the $28.50 luncheon menu as an inaugural way to savour the restaurant.

This includes an entrée choice (primi piatti), a main course (secondi piatti) and dessert. The main course is a complete dish served with vegetables.

The choice is extensive with eleven examples of Umbrian cuisine offered in both the primi and secondi piatti.

I would recommend beginning with antipasto al carrello. It is one of the best platters in town.

Though the selection varies, the plate is sure to offer Umbrian frittata, a more delicate version than that of Sicily but equally tasty.

The hot platter may include panfried squid, with a hint of garlic, a seasoned meatball of veal and chicken and a fresh-grilled prawn.

Crafted at Perugino are gnocchi alla boscaiola, which I see as a Perugino signature dish. They are beautiful, melt-in-the-mouth, house-made potato dumplings with a secret.

One-third, one-third and one-third is the chef’s clue to this delicious mystery of preparing this fairy floss-like gnocchi – part potato, part ricotta and part flour.

The majestic way to dine at Perugino is to request the chef’s banquet. He loves the challenge and you must expect to be questioned about the ingredients you enjoy.

Once your dislikes and likes are established a veritable stream of small dishes starts to appear. My appetite is usually halted at eight courses but you can expect 10.

Each dish is explained so you are not travelling a blind culinary adventure.

You will be stunned by the simplicity of the food and enchanted by the flavours. My banquet included trippa con patate pancetta – a delicious dish of veal tripe cut in fine strips almost like pasta.

A tasty but simple dish of polpette (meatballs) of veal and chicken, simply panfried with fresh tomato and oregano was another of the multitude of dishes.

Think of fresh duck stuffed with rosemary, garlic and bay leaves then oven roasted. Or pasta e ceci, a flavoursome traditional soup of chickpeas, chicken broth and pasta.

Perugino is a small restaurant of about 80 seats. There is an air of subtle elegance as you are greeted by Rosalba and her roses.

The wine selection is as fine as you would expect and is served with professionalism and knowledge.

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