44 the MELBOURNE REVIEW DECEMBER 2012
Ladro What started out as a family business in a rough part of town has matured into sophisticated Italian dining.
ou’ll often find Ingrid Langtry, one half of the husband and wife team behind Ladro, greeting guests at the Gertrude Street restaurant. Ingrid and husband Sean Kierce have been there since 2003, when Ladro opened and Gertrude Street wasn’t the gentrified go-to dinner destination it now is. “It was beautiful ugly as they say... A bit grungy but exuding a ‘village’ atmosphere with pretty much a baker, bookshop, a cool record store, costume shop, a few galleries, old pubs and artisan businesses – all of which were owner-operated just like us. It is a small street frequented by a very broad demographic,” says Langtry. “We would see cars being stolen at the end of service, junkies shooting up… it was pretty grungy 10 years back. But the locals were so great and beaming with good energy and creativity.” Over the years, the business has grown, but Langtry says at its heart it’s still a family business. “We are a ‘husband and wife duo’ and still remain very hands on, working on the floor. We have a very high staff retention rate for the industry and feel this is due to the family style of business we have developed. We have children of our own now and those family values are more important than ever for us.” The clean interiors of Ladro hint at Langtry’s other profession. “I was a full time designer with an Industrial / Interiors background. I still do this work and graphic design work for Ladro and other external clients when time permits. Food and design go hand in hand for me,” she shares.
Ingrid believes the key to a good restaurant is simple. “You need to have people who care. Care about food and its provenance, care about the guests and care about providing the best level of service no matter the level it is pitched. We feel our duty is to serve our neighbours and try to instill that in our staff. A good restaurant to me feels authentic.” Ladro’s new(ish) head chef, Niko Pizzimenti fits this approach. He was born in Sicily, in a small village called San Vito where his family are fishmongers – and have been for more than four generations. This is evident in the Ladro menu with octopus, Moreton Bay Bugs and prawns making an appearance. The seppie e asparagi – risotto with Victorian asparagus and cuttlefish ragu ($23) is a stand-out dish. Ladro’s own adopted zia (Italian aunt), Piera Pagnoni has recently joined the Ladro family and makes pasta daily. Seafood and pasta aside, Ladro is known for its pizza – with good reason. Ladro has committed to sourcing 75% of ingredients locally, including honey from Melbourne City Rooftop Bees, whose hives they host at Gertrude Street. But they’re also serious about making traditional-tasting pizza. “We have a huge Italian following and find they say there is no difference. Ladro’s flour and sugo is from Campagnia and we purify our water so its Ph level is similar to that of Campagnia,” says Ingrid – noting that within Italy itself there are many variations on ‘traditional’ pizza. For budding young chefs, there are kids’ pizza making classes on the first and third Saturdays of each month. Fun for all the family.
Rosetta Ristorante Neil Perry makes an inaugural foray into Italian food at Rosetta Ristorante
INFORMATION Ladro Fitzroy 224 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy 9415 7575 Lunch: Sun 12 – 3pm Dinner: Mon – Fri 6-11pm, Sat + Sun 5:30 – 11pm ladro.com.au
eil Perry is a man with more than a few tricks up his sleeve. A busy few years with several restaurant openings, a Qantas menu and a handful of cookbooks – it’s enough to fluster even the busiest of chefs. His latest project ventures into the newly chartered territory of Italian food – a surprising shift from his previous successes with Asian and Modern Australian. But, surprise us he does, with a menu rich with cultural flavour and a heartfelt accolade to one of the world’s most beloved food regions. The food is not regionally specific – it covers the seaside and rural localities, and there is a subtle emphasis on fine dining over rustic peasant fare. Starting somewhere along the Italian coast, the appetiser of Tonno (tuna) consists of delicately thin slices of tuna; fleshy, fresh and deliciously rare and speckled with sharp-tasting grapefruit and a smattering of pine nuts and dill. Similarly, a salad of Carciofi (artichokes) that are tender and sweet, and fresh from the cooking pot are accompanied by chunks of pickled lemon zest – a traditional treat from to the Amalfi coast where they are in abundance throughout the summertime. Pasta is the draw card, and with sixteen varieties on the menu there are more than a handful of options. The Cavatelli – a specialty of the Avellino
region – are tiny hand rolled shells that resemble miniature hot dog buns. With zucchini and garlic – two simple but often overlooked little beauties – it turns the humble into heartfelt and you might find yourself swooning the last mouthful of buttery garlic clove. But don’t stop there. When in Rome… Try a Cremoso di Arachidi – golden-toasted coconut atop a mound of a honey-nougat ice cream, filled with crunchy peanut clusters and a frozen chocolate slab. The surrounding moat of can’t-put-my-fingeron-it-creamy-deliciousness is worth an extra spoon, or perhaps just the wise decision not to share. In homage to the well-spanned food regions, the wine list is an extensive collection of Italian varieties, organised by region and inclusive of a handful of Australian drops. There is also a good selection of wines by the glass and a fabulous assortment of cocktails that may make you feel a little like you are sitting in Cipriani’s or Harry’s Bar. The design by Iain Halliday is sumptuous and beautiful, but bordering on clichéd – retro black and white photographs of celebrities adorn the feature wall and the main area is decked in rich mahogany wood panels. The bar top and entrance foyer is booming with marble – to the extent that it looks like the local quarry has been gutted, and the dining chairs are generously big and comfortable. You could be forgiven for falling asleep in them.
Published on Dec 2, 2012
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