24 March 2011

mi casa e La Casa

There aren't many restaurants I can say I've been to where I've been greeted with a hug when I walk through the door. But hug or no hug, that is the kind of warm service you'll receive from the moment you walk into La Casa.

The restaurant is owned and operated by the effervescent Carmel Ruggeri @CarmR and her brother Tony along with their family of staff including Carmel's husband Smiley and that "hot" Spanish chef Killan Diaz. Carmel tells me she hired Killian, purely based on his charming good looks but lucky for Carmel it turned out he could actually cook. And wow can he cook!

Carmel and Killian
I'm not one to go out much for Italian food given I have great Italian food at home a few times a week. But when the food is just like the "best of" edition of Nonna's cooking how can you resist?

I've heard about La Casa from a few people so I thought I would take two of my friends Milly and B and my Calabrian Mr.

Gamberi all’aglio con pomodorini piccante e verjuice

We start with some entree's first up and the garlic prawns arrive. They are fresh and juicy and dripping in garlic and chilli. I love the kick of the chilli and the roasted cherry tomato's throughout the dish. The two boys at the table fight over the bread to dip into the oil left at the bottom of the bowl.

Calamari fritti con rucola, aioli e balsamico

We also receive the crispy fried calamari which comes with aioli and balsamico. I can't say I've ever had that combination but the balsamico is my favorite part, sweet and sticky. I wish I could tell you more but the moment I went back for a second taste they had vanished off the plate.

Polpette della Mamma

I love the story behind these meatballs as they are Mamma Ruggeri's very own recipe. She used to come into the restaurant and make them herself until the chef decided instead he would learn to make them perfectly. After a few lesson attempts at the restaurant they still didn't seem to taste quite the same so he went to her home and watched closely for every ingredient and method until they tasted exactly like Mamma's. It definitely paid off as these meatballs are absolutely to die for. They're the kind that break apart easily with one tap of your fork and the red sauce is vibrant and full of flavour. I want to sit with mamma Ruggeri and learn how to make them too because I'm still craving them.

‘Nsalata Portualla

Growing up I loved fennel, I would take it to school in little air tight bags, snap it off the quarters and crunch away. The other (non-Italian) students would ask if I was eating onion and I would reply no, it's finocchio. Not knowing the actual English word was fennel. I love the stuff, the fennel in this salad was thinly sliced, crunchy and refreshing and I loved the mix with the citrus.

Mr - Fettucine con gamberi, aglio, olio, peperoncino, spinaci e capperi

Now onto our mains and lucky me, I got to sample a small amount of each dish. This one was a highlight, the prawns, garlic, chilli and oil together are match made in Italian heaven and seasoned perfectly too. If you come for pasta, this is my pick.

Milli - Penne alla Norma
This dish was named after the famous opera ‘Norma’ composed by Sicilian, Vincenzo Bellini. A mix of ricotta, eggplant and olives in a napoli sauce. I didn't get to try much of this much but I do remember the penne was al dente!  And if the sauce was anything like the one on the meatballs, Milli was in for a treat. 

B - Wagyu Steak
Served medium rare and with Salmoriglio, a mix of Extra Virgin olive oil, lemon, parsley oregano & garlic. In the words of B "this is quite possibly the best steak I've ever had" and it really was for me too. It was cooked perfectly, easy to cut and soft. I hear this isn't around for very long so get in quick!

Coniglio in Agrodolce

Rabbit cooked in tomato and balsamic, capers, pine nuts and sage, some of my favourite flavours. This sweet and sour combination works so well with the game-y rabbit and soaking up those sauces with that bread is perfetto. 
Frangipane & marmalade tart
Affogato with hazelnut gelato, liquor and espresso coffee
Trio of gelato
Ricotta Cannoli
Seeing as I've spoken for long enough about the rest of the food, I'll let the desserts speak for themself. Cannoli, gelato, marmalade tart do I need to go on? And that affogato, love the hazelnut in the smooth espresso.
Carmel and the team are like a second family which is what makes La Casa your new Italian home and besides if the Sicilians like it, you know it's good!


  1. Wonderful post Bianca! Thanks for making me hungry before breakfast! I haven't tried the meatballs yet and they look incredible :))

  2. I've always wanted to visit La Casa. @carmR is so funny and gorgeous on Twitter. Thank you for this excellent review.

  3. @Bridget you must try the meatballs they were my favourite!!

    @amy you have to try it @carmR is lovely, let me know if you blog it!!