La Casa Risorante, Russell Lea

A few months back, when I first joined Twitter, there was a Media140 event for food bloggers and ‘foodies’.  The event featured a live cooking demonstration and lively debate on the role social media such as blogging, Twitter and 4Square have on the food industry.  Participants included said food bloggers and journalists, food suppliers, food business owners and consumers.  Mixy who is studying internet studies as part of her degree was keen on attending and I, being interested in food and the rise of social media also wanted to attend as my favourite food blogger, Lorraine, was a speaker at the event.

During the event we tweeted our thoughts and they were shown on a large monitor at the front of the room.  Afterwards, I was being followed (on Twitter, not literally :P) by @carmR, so I started following her as well and realised quickly that she’s the queen of Twitter and was a few months away from opening a restaurant – La Casa Ristorante at Russell Lea

La Casa has been open for about 5 weeks and has been getting rave reviews from both food bloggers and mainstream media.  Twitter was abuzz for La Casa.  A lot of the people I follow were posting photos and raving afterwards of the food and service.  I thought, I need to check this place out QUICKSMART!  I did a quick Google search for La Casa to see what other photos and reviews were out there and I came across Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s blog post about eating at La Casa and I was hooked even more.

So that brings me to last Thursday. Sitting at work, lost in the oblivion of repetetive clicking of the mouse and staring at the computer monitor, I hear a ‘Ting! Ting!’  A message from my brother’s girlfriend, A.  She starts with the usual salutations then at the end of the SMS the words “I’m Engaged”  Woo Hoo!!  After calling to congratulate her and find out all the necessary details, my next thought is: We need to celebrate and I know the perfect place! 🙂  I give the restaurant a call after work and Carm tells me there’s probably no chance of getting a table, but she’ll see.  A few minutes later and she calls back to say nothing available around 8, but I could get 8:30.  Hmm, too late for us for dinner (especially on a ‘school night’) so I have to turn the table down.  Doh!!  So close to getting what I had my heart set on, but no cigar 😦
Then then phone rings again.  Ooh, same number that called before.  I answer with a tentative “Hello?”  Carm’s excited voice replies “Guess what Toni?  There’s been a cancellation! We can fit your party in at 8!”  Yaaaay!

Hubby, Mixy and I arrive early.  We are quickly greeted by one of the wait staff then Tony (Carm’s brother) comes over to greet us.  As our table isn’t free yet, he directs us over to the bar where we can have a drink while we wait.  And there she was.  The bundle of energy I only knew as @carmR standing there with a huge grin on her face, arms outstretched as she’s recognised me from my avatar.  Carm greets me with kisses and the same warmth is extended to my husband and Mixy.  I’ve never met Carm before, but she welcomes us like long time friends and introduces us to Tony and Smiley (Carm’s husband), who works the bar.  We order some drinks – me: a Bellini, Hubby: a Stella and Mixy: a dirty martini (Smiley makes a mean martini :)) and in amongst answering the phone, ringing up the bill for tables and calling Papa to see if he can bring in some milk to restock the fridge, Carm has a chat with us and tells us there are some other Tweeps in the house.  Then she informs me, she’s been telling some of her follwers that she’s being followed by Toni Tones (AKA, me!) who is an actress and singer!!!  I nearly fell off the stool laughing!!

While we were at the bar also, I read one of the restaurant reviews on La Casa and found out that Tony use to work at Napoli on Bocca in Haberfield which used to be one of mine, my husband and a friend of our’s usual Italian.  Every monday night, we used to play tennis at Haberfield Tennis Centre, finish at 8 then head over to Napoli on Bocca for a garlic pizza to share and mains.  And boy, the pizzas were good!  Lovely thin base, fluffly light crust mmm mmm.  But sadly, cold winter nights and injuries (and me working every 3rd Monday night) put a temporary hold on the tennis nights which in turn put a hold on Napoli…
So there was no guessing that we were very excited to read that the pizza maker from Napoli had also come over to La Casa!!! F. T. W.  Well, that sorted the starters out – pizzas to share!

Our table was ready and the rest of our party arrived, which was very good timing as the smells coming from the kitchen was making me salivate.  From all the blog posts I read I had a fairly good idea what I wanted for mains, the only problem was it was half the menu!!  So I tried my best to influence everyone on what to order so I could have a bit… heh heh heh.  I definately wanted to try the slow cooked rabbit in tomato and balsamic and I knew it would be easier to order that for myself instead of trying to get someone else.  I just had to convince someone else to get the ribs, papardelle, penne…
(I have to apologise now for no photos of dishes, but have a look at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for some good photos :))

First to come out were the pizzas.  OMG.  Just burting with flavours!  We got the Bresaola and the San Daniele pizzas.  Delicious.  Definately on list again for our next visit.  The pizza bases were just like we remembered from Napoli on Bocca, but these were better – not as saucy so not as ‘sloppy’.  Perfecto!

As well as bringing a bottle of sparkling red, we ordered from the wine list – some very nice options.  I’d heard about the “Foreign Minister” which I will definately try next time, but on this night I ordered a glass of the Cab Sav and Mixy ordered a glass of the “Puglia”.  Both very good reds, but the Puglia is my kind of wine – smooth and full bodied, very easy to drink 😉

The pizzas and mains were spaced out nicely giving the happyily engaged couple a chance to fill us in on all the little details of the proposal as our mains arrive.  My rabbit smelt delicious.  Hubby’s ordered the lasagna, Mixy the John Dory, A the fettucini and J the Barramundi.  All the dishes were  very tasty and beautifully presented.  My rabbit was so tender, the meat falling off the bones.  The idea of having a dish described as ‘sweet and sour’ was a little strange, but as soon has a had my first mouthful I got it.  The tomato stew had a slight zing to it (I guess from the balsamic vinegar), but it was deliciously sweet.  I’m not usually a fan of tomatoe-y sauces (give me a creamy pasta any day!), but I couldn’t get enough of this.  And thankfully it came with a piece of bread to mop up all the lovely sauce.
Hubby was very impressed with his lasagna.  For him, lasagna is his ‘yardstick’ for Italian restaurants.  And La Casa goes to the top of the list.  Now, he usually eats fast, but this night he inhaled his food.  So quick that Carm missed out on a chance to feed him,  though she did feed J some fish 🙂

Finishing mains always gets me excited because it means it’s dessert time 😀  I’d seen photos of gorgeous looking cannoli on Fig Jam & Lime Cordial so I only had eyes (and tastebuds) for the cannoli.  Hubby ordered the frangipane tart, Mixy couldn’t go past gelato and A the tiramisu.  We were all happy customers, sitting quietly bar a few ‘mmms’ and ‘oohs’, transfixed by our desserts.  There was a bit of sharing between us to get a taste of each other’s desserts, but I think no one was really keen on sharing…

We all came away very satisfied and happy.  Me moreso because I was pretty chuffed I recommended somewhere new to go for dinner and everyone was very happy and satisfied; I met Carm and her family and they were so welcoming and hospitable and instantly made us feel like long lost friends and because my brother finally proposed to his girlfriend.

We will definately return to La Casa.

Complimentary massage from Smiley

La Casa Ristorante
271 Lyons Rd, Russell Lea
Ph 9712 3882


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