Unsung Heroes

Rebecca Varidel
14th May 2015

My aunty never bore any children, and for this and perhaps other reasons I suppose, I spent most of my school holidays staying on her dairy farm. Her pantry was lined with Vacola bottles, brimming with home stewed peaches. The ice cream she made was from fresh unpasteurised and unhomogenised Jersey cream, beaten every 15 minutes with a fork before it was returned to the freezer. New biscuits were added to the barrel every afternoon, Monte Carlos, Shortbread Creams, Anzac Biscuits. All ingredients were grown on the farm, except flour, sugar, salt and tea. Something else grew on that farm, my love of cooking.

My friend Chef Stewart Wesson in Adelaide wears a tattoo on his arm for his hero, his grandfather. And here in Sydney my friend Naomi Lowry wears a rose tattoo, for her grandmother.

It was her grandmother that taught her eldest granddaughter to cook, Naomi confides as she shows me her glamourous black and white portraint, and Naomi still holds the cabinets of recipes that her grandmother gave her.

These days Naomi Lowry is executive chef at Bertoni, Farrar Place. And that rose is nearly enough reason to eat from her kitchen. It's her heart. Naomi cooks with her heart, as you'd best hope from all that nourishes us. Her food is tasty and traditional Italian. Her menu's in the traditional Italian style: antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci. Her gnocchi's the best I've tasted in years.

You could start with green Sicilian olives with roasted almonds, but from the antipasti we opted for three dishes: Calamari fritti with squid in aioli, Quattro formaggi stuffed zucchini flowers and my favourite Vitello tonnato. We laugh as I share my story of my first attemps at cooking the latter, with what was now I realise split mayonnaise. I was 12. Naomi's version is hearty and tempting and delicious. The veal is cold and rare and sliced in generous thick slices. I don't want to share. But we do, so I get to try the two hot dishes, both battered lightly and fried and crisp. The squid ink sits as a bed under the calamari so it is just there if you need it. What is more likely, is that you'll need to either lick the plate, or use your finger (or your focaccia) to mop up every drop of that sauce.

You've probably guessed that we tried the potato gnocchi. With funghi and truffle and five cheeses, its aroma greeted us before it was even set in front of us. I wanted to savour it slowly, but I greedily gobbled it down. And I could have more of this wonderful dish any day or night.

Mains also have a big heart that feeds with generosity (and value). A hearty serve of slow roasted pork comes with big helpings of marsala braised cabbage and agrodocle and is the same price as the gnocchi, only twenty three bucks.

Two desserts continue the classics. Red wine poached pear hits the spot. For those who love chocolate, it comes hot as budino. Who can choose?

It was the same with drinks. We let Simeon make us his special, a gin martini with a hint of lychee and Rosso Antico. Which makes it not only bloody delicious, but also a little bit pink. Service like the food, comes with hugs (if you need 'em).

Located next door to the revolving doors of Governor Phillip Tower, in the centre of serious city north, Bertoni is open for breakfast lunch and takeaway for the suited crowd. Now it's also opening two nights a week, Wednesday and Thursday for dinner. If that works out I'm told, dinner will expand to four nights. Even if your not an office local, head on up to Farrar Place at night for a well-made cocktail, a glass or two of wine, and let my friend feed you. You'll be happy you did!

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Corner Phillip and Bent Streets
+61 2 9241 2127