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Romany welcome

EVERYTHING changes, I constantly tell my staff. That is, until I lunched at the Romany Restaurant and was proved wrong.

I reflected on this 60 year old Northbridge time warp come Italia-Australian eatery and had to change my philosophy.

The Romany, in three score years of existence, has been maintained by three sets of proprietors and it appears they have each been wary of alteration in any way, shape or form.

It’s the lack of variance in the surroundings and the food that keeps all sorts of people coming back, and they continue to return, making the Romany one of the most successful restaurants in town.

At the helm is former Italian Club secretary Enzo Develter and the place remains packed to the gills.

Develter has made one bold step for change that no other proprietor dared – a replica of the original William Street window frontage has been put in place with the assistance of the Heritage Council and this has taken away the dingy-den feel of the Romany.

Patrons can actually see the world go by.

Don’t panic about the slight change – to maintain the mood of olden times there is a simple Romany formula. All you do is find a seat that places your back to the windows and there before you is the old ambience.

It’s hard to date the décor. It’s bits and pieces of the ’40s, the ’50s and the ’60s and, perhaps, the 1970s, but certainly no more modern.

Develter is a passionate host who can’t help showing his appreciation of your custom. Anyone who hasn’t been there for awhile is likely to get a warm hug of welcome.

“People don’t hug enough,” he says.

The quality of the Romany wine collection is a feature and always maintained at a high standard.

Develter will find you spectacular labels and vintages and, if the wine is good, he stocks handsomely.

Prices are approachable but, like all restaurants, imported beers are priced beyond affordability, which should benefit local products.

Bread is, as you would expect, beautiful, fresh and crusty. I hate the plastic wrapped butter because I can never think what to do with the residual greasy wrapper but, dare I call for change in a citadel of déjà vu?

Antipasto of baked peppers, olives and anchovy are on the table when you sit and are perfect with the never-ending supply of bread.

This is a chef-less restaurant. Italian senoras busy themselves in the home-style kitchen and send out superman-sized portions as if they were feeding Sicilian families.

I like to order from the specials of the day, even though they vary little.

Best is the roast veal with silverbeet, the gnocchi is the second-best in town (see Perugino from last issue), stunning lamb cutlets are often available and when the capretto is on you must go for it.

There is a never-ending list of pasta dishes that cost from $11.00 to $15.40 for spaghetti marinara and spaghetti pescatore.

These are seafood pastas with the latter prepared using a traditional tomato sauce – not purée.

You would need a hearty appetite to manage the full serve of any of the 14 offerings, so a starter-size is a wise choice.

Our modern, enlightened age has survived farcical nouvelle cuisine, the fad of stacking ingredients like a multi-story building on your plate (where they swiftly cool) and other food fashions.

So it is fascinating to see a prawn cocktail ($11.00) on the Romany menu. In the old days, every place in Perth offered a cocktail of prawns and seafood chips in a savoury sauce and chopped iceberg lettuce. In fact, the only other menu I know on which this antique dish still exists is the Witch’s Cauldron in Subiaco.

It should be understood that the dear-old Romany is a humble Perth institution, almost club-like, and the client list is varied, littered with regulars from every station in life.

Leave your local gourmet home unless he can adapt to hearty, unassuming fare in a non-pretentious atmosphere.

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