My husband has always wanted to live in North Perth due to the rich multicultural history of the suburbs. Along with its people – the hardy and ruthless Macedonians – the Croats, Greeks and Italians have all contributed much to the swampy slice of Whadjuk Noongar.
The elderly Croatian couple across the road tell incredible stories of the life they once led away from Fitzgerald Street, and there are trees laden with fat olives around almost every edge.
Ladies in knee-high stockings and black widow spiders stroll (and water) the sidewalks, and a few gardens growing exotic fruits from the old country still bloom.
And, should we choose to embrace Orthodoxy late in life, we have two Macedonian churches within walking distance.
But it’s a different kind of place of worship where I’m more likely to commune – one of the many restaurants and cafes in what has become a kind of Little Italy.
We’ve yet to road test the newest addition, a slick-looking continental deli called La Mortazza (Roman for bologna) and until recently didn’t want to go back to the oldest: the WA Italian Club .
Horrible experience several years ago when the restaurant was in another form burned us out. But a lot has changed since then.
The online reservation form showed no seats available, but a quick call secured us a table for a weekday lunch. There’s a TV show where people get on and off a plane to find themselves years in the future. We weren’t on that plane. Indeed, the name is a nod to the year the club was created.
There was only one other woman in the place, and the youngest guy looked to be around 60 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, they just seem to have a demographic – for Friday lunch at least. Which brings us to bullets. Hot, pasty and salty balls.
It’s not often you get something for nothing these days, and a free dish of hot and fluffy fried dough balls is quite the gift. “They are very easy to make,” our server tells us. They are also extremely easy to swallow.
The room looks a bit like nonna’s formal living room, only a lot louder – some attempts at soundproofing may have helped, but the loud guys having lunch make it a little hard to hear.
Although the clientele is older, the menu puts a contemporary spin on the classics.
Take charred occy thighs that have been lifted by a barely-there nduja marinade and arranged on velvety pumpkin mash ($22). This curious pairing is made even crazier by a sprinkle of crumbled amaretti cookies. Shit, it works.
Not yet satisfied with our carb load, we tore up the homemade pasta. Tight swirls of trofie al dente with asparagus sauce and speck spears and slivers and a sublime, rich Italian sausage ragu on thick strands of bigoli (both $26) are rustic—and gigantic. The trofie was a little under sauced.
The restaurant’s eponymous pinot grigio, a collaboration with Margaret River’s Credaro ($35) is a good price. The staff are cheerful and attentive and apart from a few missteps the experience was quite delightful.
This delicious and quirky slice of yesteryear is the anchor of our very own Little Italy.
235 Fitzgerald Street, West Perth
Lunch open, Wednesday to Friday; Dinner, Thursday-Saturday
Contact 9328 4104