UPDATE April 2015: This restaurant has permanently closed for business.
Almost one hundred years ago in 1915, Antonino Meli decided to pack his clothes into a suitcase and began his arduous journey from Italy to Australia by boat. Arriving in Sydney for the first time, the 17 year-old slept on Mosman Oval for a fortnight and began doing odd jobs in the area.
Antonino then started a humble horse and cart fruit shop and worked very hard to cater to his customers. He saved the money he earned and managed to buy a shop in Crows Nest to run his own fruit and vegetable market.
The industrious young man also began serving food to locals from his new premises. The business thrived and from these humble beginnings, he bought other shops along the strip which have remained with the Meli family for three generations. Eventually, his son Tom and grandson Nic (Cover image above) turned the fruit and vegetable market into an Italian restaurant twenty years ago which they ran for six years until Nic went overseas to travel.
Nic eventually returned to Sydney, got married and started a family of his own. Continuing the family’s food history, he has now opened an Italian restaurant named after his ten year-old son on the very premises his grandfather first operated the family’s fruit and vegetable market so many decades ago.
Thanks to a kind invitation from Evil Twin PR, I am here tonight at Lorenzo’s with Mysaucepan to sample some of Head Chef Nic Meli new creations.
Lorenzo’s short, one-page menu offers classic Italian appetizers and entrees. Bruschetta has four different toppings and there is also grilled, deep-fried and braised seafood.
A carpaccio bresaola comes with fennel, mozzarella, rucola and hazelnut for textural contrast.
I like green olives in martinis but they are especially appetizing before Italian food.
Bruschetta is more elegant than the hearty ones I have come across.
Thin slices of toasted bread topped with tomato and feta is a classic Italian favourite. But a lone basil leaf is crying out to be included in the mix for more flavours.
Tuna pangrattato is beautifully seared cubes of fish still pink and raw in the middle, mixed with crunchy bits of breadcrumbs.
The cosy, old-world ambience of this restaurant with chequered red and white tablecloths rivals the contemporary charm of this dish. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and black pepper brings this vibrant summer dish to life.
Braised octopus and mussels is hearty home-style Italian cooking. Black mussels in their shells is rustic but the star of this dish is chunky pieces of octopus, with its soft, gentle chew and deep fried potato cubes.
I detect a hint of cinnamon in the red wine sauce which is otherwise bursting with seafood flavours. As I drink it by the spoonfuls, fresh sourdough comes to mind to mop up the sauce.
Difficult as it is, we politely decline Tom’s offer of fresh bread for this addictive red wine sauce. If these entrees are preludes, we are definitely saving space for the main events.
Prawn fritti comes with crispy, golden brown breadcrumb crusts. Fresh rucola leaves soften my guilt for tasty deep-fried food although the prawns are light and non-greasy.
But take a walk along this corner of Falcon street and Pacific Highway and you will be amazed by the sheer number of options – Thai, Indian, modern Australian, Chinese, Italian, pub fare and pizzerias make this quite an international eat street.
“Oh man, you’ll love this spatchcock!” Mysaucepan says as she carves into a whole butterflied bird marinated with basil butter.
“Squeeze some lemon juice first!” I tell her.
The drizzle of lemon juice brings out the smoky chargrilled aromas and this is precisely what I love about wholesome Italian cooking. The meat is juicy and succulent and the best part is the skin with all its crisp, chargrilled flavours.
“Lose the fork and knife, just use your hands and fingers!!” I tell Mysaucepan.
“Don’t you tell me what to do!” she says.
I gaze at her in delight as she tucks into the spatchcock. This style of spatchcock with herb butter never fails to be one of our BBQ favourites in summer.
“Sweetheart, I love Italian food so much, perhaps I should have married a nice, wholesome Italian girl?” I tell her in jest.
“Sure, and I should have married a dashing Frenchman then” she immediately replies, reminding me of her undying love for French cuisine.
My medium-rare Hunter valley grass-fed scotch fillet is topped with a rich mushroom sauce and broccolini sprigs wrapped with prosciutto.
“Man, this piece of meat is generous” I tell her.
“Not that you’re complaining” she says.
I cut into the meat and it is tender, juicy and cooked to my liking.
“The mushroom sauce is delightful with those polenta chips isn’t it? she says.
I prefer the sauce for my steaks to come in a separate sauce jar but there are exceptions and this is one of them.
The meat is thick so it’s crisp and charred while still pink and succulent inside. The rich mushroom sauce redolent of red wine is jostling for attention and rightfully so.
This steak reminds me of a similar one in a lower north shore Italian. And these are steaks which I am happy to come back for more of the same because they are honest and true to the tradition of what a good steak should be.
A pannacotta drizzled with passionfruit syrup and strawberries and a tiramisu rich with liquor reminds us of Lorenzo’s charm for traditional Italian.
I love Limoncello and being the wonderful host that he is, Tom serves up a couple of shots for us.
Lorenzo’s is the heart and soul of three generations of the Meli family, bringing home-style Italian to Crows Nest. I think the locals definitely have something to cheer about.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite Italian restaurant in Sydney and if so, what is your favourite dish there?
ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests courtesy of Evil Twin PR and Lorenzo’s. Prices are for readers information. This review is an honest and objective account of our dining experience on the day. All opinions are our own.
320 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9437 8813
Opening hours: Dinner Tuesdays – Saturdays 5.30pm – 10.30pm Lunch Friday 12pm – 3pm
BYO corkage $3 per person