Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cheap Italian eats in the 1980s

I was thinking the other day about the wonderful Italian food I used to have when I was living in Paddington between 1979 and 1991. A lifetime ago it seems as so much has happened since I came to my senses and divorced Mr Wrong in 1991 and left town. However the memories of Little Italy, sandwiched between William and Oxford Streets, Darlinghurst that I have will live on forever. It has been 18 years since I was last there but I believe there are a few of the old restaurants and cafes still there, still serving good, solid home style Italian food and delightfully strong and aromatic coffee with gelato in every flavour on the side. A little more pricey these days of course, but still worth a visit.

Bill & Toni's was a favourite open 7 days a week, with it's coffee and gelato on the ground floor and where you would queue up the stairs till you reached the dining area on the first floor for lunch or dinner. The place was packed every time I was there. There were at least a dozen tables seating 4 or 6 scattered around the floor all filled with diners. No seat ever got cold there for as soon as there was an empty seat available, it was filled by someone in the queue. You always had to share a table unless you came with a group of friends, but it was a nice way to meet people too. No mucking around, the service was fast and you ate fast because there was still that queue up the stairs full of hungry people waiting for your seat. It was generally a 2 course meal of pasta followed by a meat, chicken or fish dish, all served with a large bowl of crisp iceberg lettuce lightly dressed with a vinegary dressing. It was sooo good and I could never quite copy the same tasting salad dressing at home. Two pastas and 3 or 4 mains only to choose from. Made it simple for the chef I suppose but the food was always good. A fixed price of $8 per person ($9 if you had the schnitzel) was a bargain in those days when I was of an age where I was earning reasonably good money working full time as a legal secretary. The house specialty was schintzel and cheese, a very popular dish. Beef schnitzel crumbed and deep fried then topped with a little bolognaise sauce and cheese, grilled till the cheese was melted and bubbly. My God my mouth is watering as I type this. I must have eaten there dozens of times and I never had a crook feed. Now whilst Bill & Toni's was good there was another establishment that was even better and much cheaper, just down the road.

To all outward appearances, it was just another old two storey house in need of a coat of paint, on the corner of Stanley Street. No signs, no indication that it was a restaurant at all. In fact, calling it a restaurant would not be correct either. It was known by various names. To me it was called "Slys" (because it operated on the sly) but it was also know as "Nazore"(sp?) (Italian for "nose") because the cook had a big one, a real honker. But it was also know as "Hole in the Wall" to others. There lived a portly, middle aged Italian bloke who was the cook and his 3 kids who waited on the tables. Every night he opened the front room of his house and fed anyone who came in and had $5, whatever was on the menu that night. You had to enter via the gate in the side fence then cross the back yard, go up the path past the laundry and into the house, past the kitchen where "Nazore" was sweating over a hot stove and into the dining area. More often than not you would have to queue up that path and wait your turn but it was worth the wait every time.

For your $5 you would get pasta of the day, a main, bread, lettuce and wine, yes WINE was free with your meal. It was red or white in flagons plonked on the table by the kid waiters who really worked hard. It was pretty good wine to wash your meal down with. I liked the red best. The meals were large servings of good, Italian, peasant food and the place was full 7 nights a week. You could help yourself to a piece of fruit as you left from a large basket by the door. I ate there almost every week for a couple of years. The atmosphere was what I would imagine would be like in Italy at a big family gathering, lots of talk, laughter, a general buzz of good vibes and the miriad of delicious aromas wafting out of the kitchen.

I don't know how long "Slys" was in business for and whether or not the authorities caught up with "Nazore" but that is one place I will remember for the rest of my life. They don't (or can't) make 'em like that any more.

Ciao for now

The Real Estate Blues

This is our beautiful hallway painted expertly by my dear husband with hand crafted quilts on the wall from my friend Marilyn in Ohio. Special quilt hangers that fit on the picture rail in animal shapes also hand carved and painted by my multi-talented husband. I didn't know he was artistic until this year.
So far 2 lookers for the house and no offers. Not really surprised as winter does seem to deter house hunting for some. Plus it seems that half of Cowra is on the market so prices are low and buyers are thin on the ground. We did drop the price a tad after a similar house in the next street sold at auction last weekend for $145k. Shocked! We are getting impatient to move north. Might have something to do with the weather - brrrrr.....

Nevertheless, our hopes are high for a timely sale and we have our lifestyle change to look forward to once the money is available. The house is a unique place with so many things going for it and that special person who will fall in love with the place on first glance has yet to materialise, but they will, dear reader, they will. Bwahahahah - *wrings hands with glee* - Oh well, you have to be positive or you may as well cut your throat.

Keep on Smiling........