If I had a list of ‘must try’ dishes on the Gold Coast, one of them would be Filled gnocchi with porcini sauce from Due Amici.
For me, it was love at first bite, the small cloud-like pillows of gnocchi hiding a line of porcini inside, smothered in a rich porcini cream sauce. They may not be the prettiest gnocchi in town, but believe me – they’re addictive! The taste is intense, the texture soft and velvety, the quality completely unexpected.
Why? The moment of illumination comes as we’re sitting in a tiny shop on the outside of a suburban shopping centre.
Due Amici – Two Friends; in fact they’re the husband and wife team Geremia and Simon Lando. After moving to Australia from Italy seven years ago, the Landos first opened their restaurant in Mermaid Beach, moving it to Sorrento in June 2014. In a budget fit out, the tiny shop is decked out in Italian newspapers which cover the tables and walls. Seating only twenty people, the couple run the restaurant by themselves, open every evening from 4.30pm.
Good food takes time, especially in the preparation, but you can always improve your Italian by reading the paper as you wait, and the restaurant is BYO for a $2.50 charge per person. With pop opera on the airwaves and Geremia’s sunny smile, it would be easy to make this little place a weekly stop (or more)!
After our second visit, we asked Simon a few questions about his food and heritage. He tells us that he did all sorts of jobs in Italy, including working as a printer by day and in restaurants by night, as well as being a stone mason, which he loved.
“I’m from a small town close to Bassano del Grappa (the home of grappa) about 80km north of Venice. Mum used to make gnocchi at home and it was my favourite dish.
I loved it so much that when I came here I started making it, trying, trying… until I got it right. Now she asks me for my recipe,” he says, “but of course the recipe’s a family secret.”
We try Due Amici’s Seafood pizza, which has a thin crispy crust and generous topping of fresh seafood over a tomato-spread base, a touch of chilli giving depth to the flavour. Simon tells us that if he had his choice over again, he’d just make pasta, but pizzas make good takeaway for local diners, and his is a good one.
With all the pasta in the shop handmade, it’s time consuming work for the couple.
“Nobody here makes gnocchi like I do. It’s really a specialty dish. It probably takes too long and, to be honest, you don’t get the money back for that time.” Simon tells us that he imports the porcini from Italy, and that the gnocchi must be made from the right kind of potatoes. With potatoes’ consistency varying according to weather conditions, it takes an expert to make the gnocchi the same every time.
“But it’s worth it,” he adds. “I have something no one has touched.”
Simon is especially proud of their gluten-free products: both GF gnocchi and GF pizza (which in the past he has made for other restaurants) took a lot of time to perfect. You can hardly tell the difference, he says. There’s also cannelloni, ravioli, lasagne and calzone on the menu, and tiramisu for dessert, dine in prices only a couple of dollars more than take away.
For me, it doesn’t matter how many options there are on the menu. Next visit I’m ordering Artichoke-filled gnocchi with artichoke sauce. Let’s see whether it can knock the Porcini filled gnocchi off its perch! I really doubt it!
Shop 14, Sorrento Shopping Centre, 20 Bundall Road, Bundall; Open Tues – Sat 4.30pm – 9pm, Ph: 07 5538 6041 Mob: 046 640 6491