Isola D'Ischa Ristorante

Rebecca Varidel
25th Jun 2015

Isola D'Ischa is a traditional Italian restaurant with wonderful food and a wonderful story.

On my first visit, a Sunday lunch, I was soon smitten by the warmth of the service. Then, after ordering, I was flicking through the menu and came upon this story. And my heart melted.

"My name is Salvatore D'Alterio - Chef now the age of twenty six opening my first the restaurant in Australia with my two younger brothers Maurizio and Gianluca."

"I would like to share with you my story on how I have come to be in Australia, and after just one year of establishing myself in this country opening Isola D'Ischia Ristorante here in Balmain.

Let me start at the beginning, at a very young age I am blessed with my beautiful mother Maria, who is a Pastry Chef on the island of Ischia, located in the region of Campania in Italy off the coast of Naples. I am the oldest son in my family with two younger brothers, Maurizio and Gianluca, my older sister Rosalba, now an Angel lost at a tender age of just three years.

My father, Roby was a merchant seaman but after the loss of my older sister, my parents only daughter, left his sea faring ways and returned to be with his family to watch over his sons.

My mother was always chasing for the good life for her sons as most Italian Mothers do, and her dream for me was to become a Chef. As such, when I was just thirteen years of age she managed to find me a place to work after school and in summer holidays at Purticciull Ristorante in Ischia. I would pack my bag every day and find my way to the restaurant bidding farewell to my mamma and brothers. Now to tell you the very truth at that age, I really disliked working in the kitchens as I wanted to be on our farm with my dogs and the horses, my grandfather, who's family were butchers, and my brothers. My grandfather taught my brothers and I the fine art of butchery, in my spare time when I returned to the farm during my breaks from Purticciull Ristorante. These are treasured times and live close to my heart.

My passion for cooking started to grow as I began to study for the next five years in Ischia under Rosaria Sgambati who was the President of the Italian Federation of Cooking, Ischia.

During this time my heart is broken when I lose my Mother with her battle of cancer which becomes a very defining moment in my life. I use my energy and determination focusing on my Mother's dream for me to become a Chef and take steps to ensure that my life would be as she wished. I believe my Mother was, and is still watching over my brothers and I giving me more strength every day to continue on this journey set by her forethought in my younger years."

This story continues for another four pages. In essence as soon as Salvatore arrived with his brothers in Australia he made a connection with Restaurateur, Luigi Esposito of Via Napoli Pizzeria in Lane Cove and was offered a job on the spot. Then the opportunity arose to take over this Balmain location.

"It is as though my Mother is guiding us again, and this establishment comes with everything that is needed to start our new adventure including tables and chairs, pots and pans, plates, cutlery and a barista coffee machine to name just a few items, to which we feel we are blessed. All it [the restaurant] needs is a new name and some brave young men to take the challenge together and to make a change in their life to start what we thought we would call Ristorante Isola D'Ischia."

The brothers are offering a traditional menu with options over four courses, and after a complimentary starter trio there's a choice of eight antipasti. You can't go past the really rich and deep flavoured Parmigiani Di Melenzane, layered eggplant, tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. The vegetable and the sauce have been really cooked down to a beautiful rich intensity. It's a wonderful warm dish. There are also a couple of seafood options, octopus, calamari with fried zucchini or mussels. For those who like a cold start the traditional combinations of Parma prosciutto with Italian buffalo mozzarella or a Caprese salad are available.

Pasta and risotto offers a big ten choices including a superb house-made potato gnocchi with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and fresh basil. The kind you dream about at night, then you dream about coming back from another helping. The menu here changes each season but the winter options include a spaghetti with olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil or a homemade pappardelle with porcini mushrooms. Risotti include a four cheese burrata and truffle. It's really hard to choose. Or to leave room for the great big generous hearty mains.

Il Coniglio All Ischitana is rabbit cooked in terracotta, cherry tomato, fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil. Or there is the famous Neapolitan seafood casserole Il Cala Cala on the menu. Yet after reading the family history, Il Pollo Alla Cacciatora Mamma Story, chicken with capsicum and olives with tomato " a recipe from my angel mamma" needs to be a high priority. Chicken cacciatore is a classic that I've always enjoyed and was an early popular Italian dish in Australia, yet with all our new creative modern cuisine it can be difficult to find this traditional dish these days. Well, here you have it. And it's worth a trip for it alone.

But leave room for cake. The desserts are sensational.

And so is the glorious sunny and attentive service, that in itself will make you smile, if not sing!

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191 Darling Street,
Balmain East
+61 2 9818 8841