The Waiters Restaurant is as Melbourne as it comes – hidden away in a CBD lane-way, with the entrance so understated that you would pass it without knowing. You find yourself climbing a few flights of an old staircase, and then entering a room which screams original 1950’s decor – wood Laminex tables and cushioned brown vinyl chairs. No written menu, your eyes rely on the blackboards hanging on the walls. Originally called ‘The Waiters Club’, it opened as a go-to place for the Italian and Spanish hospitality workers to grab a drink, a bite and a late hour unwind accommodating irregular industry knock-off times. It’s been said that the restaurant used to be so exclusive to the industry that a password was needed to enter, hence it’s original name.
Being such an understated and authentic restaurant with a strong reputation, I was looking forward to a rustic version and hoped it would be the kind to leave me quiet and just humming to my food (always a good sign). It arrived. The moment of truth.
The presentation was as humble as the restaurant’s appearance – brown with not much decoration. The sauce was stirred through, so that was a win.
First bite and I was underwhelmed. The meat was tender and delicious, but it was thick with not enough liquid surrounding, making it quite dry. Also lacking was a more tomatoey flavour, which was my suspicion as I noted the dark brown colour on arrival. Being a very meat dominated sauce, an aftertaste became noticeable. Also lacking was seasoning. I liked the subtlety of chili which cut through the meat, and the delicacy of the pasta which was just on al dente.
This spaghetti bolognese was no disaster, it just wasn’t the balance of meat-to-tomato flavour that I enjoy. Nor was the texture of the sauce my preference. Though it was more than acceptable, it is not one of the best in Melbourne in my eyes. But hey, there are obviously many people that enjoy the pastas here – it’s been open for 65 years, and that says a lot.
Do you prefer a more meat or tomato dominated sauce? Feel free to leave your comments below about anything spag bol!
Mamma Vittoria on Smith Street Collingwood is a family run Italian restaurant with an authentic and homely atmosphere. The cobble stone walls and large wood fired pizza oven visible from the dinning area filled my heart with warmth the moment I walked in.
A large painting of THE Mamma Vittoria, who is still alive and kicking and regularly seen mingling with customers, hangs on the wall. The painting is rather Mona Lisa-esque, with an all-knowing and hospitable smirk, and eyes that follow you as you eat her humble food. The piece appropriately stands beside hanging garlic.
I should mention that spaghetti bolognese does not have a permanent place on their menu but if you call prior to request, it can often be provided. A tip: call and make sure they have it when you go – it’s totally worth it.
The mound of bolognese mixed through pasta was plentiful and the taste was wondrous. Mamma Vittoria makes their own pasta, and though more like linguine than spaghetti, it was delicious.
From a sauce flavour viewpoint, this one was onto it. A beautifully rich and developed flavour, with a big tomato kick and sweetness to counteract. I sensed a slow cook for this one, and lots of love. The seasoning was perfect. The consistency of the meat was great – the clump sizes varied which made each bite a wonderful surprise and the overall texture enjoyable.
The portion size was perfect for my liking and there wasn’t much to criticize apart from the fact that I would have preferred a finer pasta. But I’m not complaining, this was a special bolognese. Bravo Mamma, Bravo.
Note: dishes which score 16+ are contenders for the title of Melbourne’s best Spaghetti Bolognese. All scores above 16/20 will be disclosed at the end of the year long taste testing once the winner is revealed.
Botticelli of Brighton is a shmancy little Mediterranean restaurant a few doors down from the Dendy Brighton cinema. I’ve always admired the smell of garlic which wafts into the street. And so I was excited to tuck into this little Brighton (pronounced Braa-ton, of course) delight.
Again this week, I ate a pasta differing from spaghetti. Botticelli’s menu offers linguine bolognese, so that’s what I ordered.
I had mixed emotions on first sight – the sauce looked scarce but the parmesan was plentiful. As always, I dipped into the bolognese on its own to start to get a feel for the sauce. It has a very fresh herbaceous flavour with a nice acidic kick.
I had a full mouthful of pasta and sauce and was very underwhelmed. There was a lot of pasta and not enough sauce. The meat was clumpy and the texture was quite dry. But the flavour was really nice.
With linguine being thicker than spaghetti, its important to ensure there is ample sauce to cling to the larger pasta surface. I felt that this bowl missed that mark, and in turn, the bolognese was not distinguished enough. I’m not sure if it was because there was too much linguine and not enough sauce which absorbed the flavour, or if it was just under seasoned, but this linguine bolognese was rather bland.
For locals, Botticelli serves its purpose well by covering an array of Mediterranean dishes, and being that little bit up-market to suit the demographic. It’s bolognese was nothing to write home about – it was well balanced but didn’t stand out strong and tall, like the ballsy variety I prefer.
Price: $21 for entree, $24 for main
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