“Um excuse me, can I have some cheese?”
“Oh, (shaking head) we don’t believe in cheese with seafood.”
The last time I looked in the mirror I saw a grown woman staring back at me - a woman that likes to decide how she eats. I made the decision that the spaghetti with braised octopus needed some cheese and didn’t need to be told otherwise. We all know that at Terroni, substitutions and sliced pizza are out of the question but at least they gladly hand over the Grana Padano when requested. Osteria Ciceri e Tria, Terroni’s baby sister on Victoria Street, tries to take a little too much control.
An osteria is a tavern where the l’oste (host) decides what antipasti the patrons will snack on. Their menu changes daily and I like the element of surprise but let’s relax a little. If I want to dip anchovies in chocolate milk then that should be my prerogative.
Now for those of you that have been following my blog you will remember two things: I am in love with Terroni and I hate waitresses in baby tee’s that don’t wear bras. Well, the pasta at Osteria Ciceri e Tria is sadly nowhere near as good as it is at Terroni and the staff doesn’t believe in undergarments.
I’m not going to dwell on the three strikes though because although the handmade pastas are doughy and dull, their parade of five colourful antipasti ($15) have enough weight to push the experience from not good to good.
A grilled shrimp on a fava bean puree had everyone awing over how perfectly it was cooked – a little crispy and a lot shrimpy. The puree was as luscious as velvet.
Cantaloupe with prosciutto requires zero imagination but it is a classic Italian partnership and I’ll take it every time.
The friseddha (whole wheat rusk with eggplant, cherry tomato and ricotta salata) was a homey addition to the line up. Its’ flavours were subtly married as it hung out it in its’ little bowl.
A potato and octopus cake was actually a salad. The gelatinous bread crumbs were I’m sure what made someone call it a cake. The octopus was perfectly cooked but the dish was under seasoned. I would’ve preferred the addition of something briny like black olives.
Where are the salt shakers?
The star was the spelt and lentil salad with cured tuna. It had all the makings of a perfect salad: colour, texture, flavour. The little bits of carrot added a slight crunch and the oily tuna melted in my mouth. A big bowl of it would make an ideal lunch.
We added the night’s board ($16) and a grilled sausage with smoked scamorza ($15) for some extra dimension. The sausage was a sausage but the scamorza was a gently fried disk of goodness. It's rubbery texture was exactly what I crave in a cheese. Robiolo, Pecorino, fresh figs, favas and apricots, more prosciutto and a buffalo milk ricotta crostini all made the wine flow easier and more quickly.
The room was packed. It felt alive in a way that the restaurants are in Italy. We ate with gusto and drank with little caution. The encounter was satisfying.
I recommend that you go, choose a bottle from their inexpensive wine list and just snack on the antipasti – at least that way you’ll get some cheese.