There’s nothing like Italian hospitality to make you feel at home. It’s like a big warm embrace, straight from the heart.
That’s just how we feel when we dine at Italian Kitchen Company.
For starters, the place comes with self-assurance. Not only do owners Robert and Natalie Santoro have the background to be restaurateurs, but they know that they should be here in this place.
To both of them, food is the language of love – the love Robert knew growing up in his Sicilian parents’ kitchen in Sydney, the love he used to woo Natalie by cooking for her and her mother every Saturday, that same dish that he shares with us in their restaurant today.
After winning Natalie’s heart, the pair started their first restaurant, a backstreet pizzeria in Glenford, Sydney when she was just 18. It was the place of lessons learned; a foundation for their move to the Gold Coast five years ago where the pair were stallholders in Miami Marketta, building a catering business and establishing clientele as they saved for their own permanent restaurant.
“It was not just about finding any place. We wanted a community similar to the Marketta but with a solid home,” Natalie tells us.
That’s the ‘home’ they found in the former Ristorante Pinocchio, Mermaid Beach, set beside other niche eateries: Lupo, Bonita Bonita and The Glenelg Public House.
Their keen eyes saw structural potential in the venue, replacing the pizza oven but leaving the costly exhaust system in place, leaving the exposed timber beams and ceiling in place, reusing light fittings and recycling furniture for a comfortable cosy look, with a new bar, polished concrete floor and white railway tiles giving the restaurant new life. It’s a tribute to former owner Riccardo’s passion, rewarded by his regular visits as a diner.
Robert heads up the kitchen, his menu “telling the story of his Sicilian heritage with enough entry points for the diner to appreciate the food,” Natalie says.
She points out that his recipes are not only traditional, but many are of his own creation, as is the way in Italian families, each person adding their own creative tweek to recipes handed down through generations.
Be begin our meal with green Sicilian olives in white Sambuca and Robert’s own chilli oil, bedded down on a bed of fresh rocket and served with toasted Italian bread.
Huge prawns from the trawlers are cooked in local garlic and olive oil ($22), the tastiest ‘brain food in a plate’ we’ve had in some time. Very moreish!
Natalie recommends a wine for us to try: Fondo Antico’s unoaked Nero D’Avola 2015, one of Sicily’s finest grape varietals. (The restaurant carries a well-chosen selection of Australian wines at very competitive prices but, for wine lovers, a hard to get Sicilian wine such as this is a real treat!)
Being from the same region as the food, the Nero D’Avola perfectly complements the hand-cut house-made Penne Siciliana ($26) that follows, tossed with eggplant in a sweet Sicilian napolitana sauce, together with a 24 hour-leavened Salsiccia pizza topped with porchini mushrooms, free range Italian pork sausage and rocket ($24).
We finish off with Robert’s Tiramisu ($14), coffee-soaked savoiardi biscuits layered with whipped mascarpone, local free-range eggs, liqueur and cocoa.
There are many other dishes on the menu for us to return to: Spaghetti marinara with its medley of octopus, scallops, calamari, prawns and black mussels in napolitana sauce; Pappadelli lamb with eight hour slow-cooked lamb shank ragù or Spaghetti with blue swimmer crab, cherry tomato, garlic and chilli. And then there are those Italian wines…
There’s just one thing that I need to get sorted before we retire for a nap…Why is it called Italian Kitchen Company?
“There really are two meanings of the term, don’t you think?” says Natalie. “We have this old black and white photo of the family sitting around the kitchen…
It’s about people being together. We want the experience here to be approachable and memorable, but still it’s Italian.”
Company… Yes, it’s how we dine.
2460 Gold Coast Highway (Cnr Glenelg Ave), Mermaid Beach Ph: 07 5575 5955
Open: Sun – Thurs 5pm – late; Fri – Sat 12 noon – late.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast dined as guest of Italian Kitchen Company.