Overall Rating: 9/10
There’s something special about Bar Idda which keeps me coming back for more. Its rustic and lively atmosphere makes it the perfect spot to wind down after a hard day’s work. And it’s so authentic you could easily trick your mind into thinking you’re in Sicily. It’s no wonder this cosy trattoria is constantly packed to the rafters throughout the week.
Nestled in the heart of Brunswick East on Lygon Street, Bar Idda specialises in Sicilian inspired cuisine and flavours with a focus on seasonal produce. The owners Alfredo and Lisa La Spina, draw on their passion for their parents’ homeland to create a unique experience that celebrates Sicilian food and culture.
Upon entering you’re immediately struck by a warm and inviting atmosphere. The no-frills restaurant is filled with thoughtful touches – wooden tables are dressed with embroidered tablecloths, cute doilies and mismatched cutlery and plates. Wine is poured from carafes into simple tumblers, just like dining at a local trattoria in Italy. At times you feel like you’re dining in nonna’s kitchen.
The restaurant is small and cosy, which adds to the intimate vibe. Walk-ins are welcome, with plenty of seating areas including the bar, kerbside or rear courtyard. Groups of 10-16 people can be accommodated in their upstairs private dining room.
Owner and chef, Alfredo La Spina, draws inspiration from his Sicilian upbringing on a Victorian farm, serving up home-style Siclian food full of generosity and heart.. The menu has a distinct focus on regional cuisine and local, home made produce. True to Sicilian tradition, dishes are designed to be placed in the centre of the table and shared. To complement the food, the wine list is exclusively Sicilian, accompanied by a range of Italian craft beers, aperitivi and digestivi.
Every Thursday, Bar Idda light up their traditional ‘Fucularu’ Sicilian BBQ, with a special dish featuring on the coals each week.
If you’re feeling indecisive, the expert staff are more than happy to give you recommendations.
A starter of fried caciocavallo cheese ($12 for three pieces) was a perfect way to excite the palate. Caciocavallo originates from Southern Italy and is a traditional, stretched curd cheese made from cow or ewes milk and currently even buffalo milk.
The cheese was beautifully cooked with a crispy golden outer layer revealing an oozing soft centre. Served on a wooden board, the cheese was accompanied by soaked prune and fig and delicate slithers of soused onion. Sweet, salty and sour flavours were delicately balanced together harmoniously.
The chicken ribs ($10) were equally decadent. coated in rice flour and cinnamon, then fried. The ribs were dressed with a home-made tomato relish and salmoriglio – a light, creamy dressing similar to aioli made from an emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, anchovies and garlic. Surprisingly, the salty and sour flavours of the salmoriglio combined beautifully, offsetting the acidity of the red wine vinegar and tomato paste in the relish. The succulent chicken, fell apart from the bone with the slightest of nudges.
The gnocchi ($17) is one of the best I have had in Melbourne. And that is no exaggeration! In true Sicilian fashion, ricotta is the key ingredient, accompanied by wheat flour, eggs, salt, pepper and a hint of nutmeg. The gnocchi are a textural delight – light yet luxuriously rich. Paired with roast onions, summer greens and a hint of lemon, the dish was the hero of the evening.
Another signature dish of Sicily, the Agnello Messinese, is comprised of a slow cooked lamb shoulder which is brined for 24 hours in a traditional Messinese marinade and then wet roasted with fennel for five hours. The lamb is wonderfully cooked – melt in your mouth territory. The marinade has hints of black olive, red wine and rosemary giving the lamb a great depth of flavour and intensity.
The crudo salad ($10) is the perfect partner for the lamb and cuts through its rich flavours. The summery salad is packed with colour and flavour, a palate popping mix of soaked cauliflower, zucchini, radish, green beans, broccoli and dried oregano. The sweetened red wine vinegar provides the salad with a touch of sweetness and tang.
Unfortunately there was no room for desserts. But there’s always an excuse to come back to Bar Idda. I can’t wait to visit again for a lively evening of feasting.
Value for money: 8/10