Italian’s easy right? Stick some pasta and pizza on the menu, a bit of old-time Italian crooning on the speakers and a few swarthy waiters on the payroll, and you’ve got a bar Italia. Thankfully the crew at No Mafia get that there’s more to it than that.
What they’ve nailed instantly is the atmosphere. They’ve taken the long, narrow space that was Jus Burgers in its previous incarnation and created a modern Italian bar that’s more than pastiche. A hearty-but-not-cheesy ciao both greets you and sends you on your way. A well-behaved baby is bounced on a father’s knee, with no Hummer-sized buggy in sight. The La Marzocco is cranking out the Italian lifeblood at the end of the long bar.
You won’t find pretentious swilling and supping, just good advice on a wine list that features homegrown West Australian drops from our smaller Margaret River winemakers such as Blind Corner and Si Vintners, and great southern Italian choice, Nerello Mascalese 13 from Cottanerra, Sicily. The same goes for the beer, with a wide range of Italian craft beers.
And then there’s a menu that has no pasta and no pizza: just meats, cheeses and seafood that allow for prolonged grazing. Sourdough from Freo’s Bread in Common with a heaped pile of spicy pancetta, bresoala or prosciutto offers a level of quality and simplicity that can be hard to find. Potted tuna or pickled Fremantle sardines are another study in less-is-more. There’s a danger larger plates like the city black bistecca won’t get a look-in when you’re jumping between small plates. That $4.50 beef carpaccio with anchovies, pickled mushrooms and parmesan should be a greedy mouthful, but the plate is so well presented you’ll find yourself taking your time while you admire it.
No Mafia? No indeed – but an offer you can’t refuse nonetheless.