With our recent engagement, Marc and I pulled our families together for a celebratory meet and greet. One event happened over lunch at Il Centro. I had been to Il Centro before albeit a long, long time ago. It's famed for its sandcrab lasagne and I can ascertain that it is, indeed delicious. This must be why it's survived on the menu for so many years.
Il Centro is located on the Eagle Street dining precinct, next to Cha Cha Char. I don't know what's going on with the parking under Eagle Street but we had the oddest experience being directed along the maze of carpark levels, finally finding a park (we weren't sure if most of them belonged to residents) and then not being able to work out how to get back to ground level. Being stuck in an underground carpark with no clear exit can get very claustrophobic very fast.
When we finally made it to Il Centro, it was a relief seeing the open plan dining set up. Our table was near the back exit but the whole space is pleasantly light-filled with floor to ceiling windows. The menu is fine Italian cuisine with plenty of seafood options. On Sundays, there's the option of choosing from either a 2 or 3 course set meal out of a more limited menu. Most at our table ended up doing this for simplicity sake.
Panini - warm crusty roll
We were brought out some bread rolls, olive oil and green olives as appetizers. It turns out my dad and I are pretty much the only people at the table who eats olives. I now know where Marc gets his aversion to olives from! I thought they were delicious and tasted fresher than the ones I get from the deli I am a big green olive fan. I was actually starving by this point so I wolfed down my bread roll and felt marginally better afterwards.
Calamari - salt and pepper squid with saffron aioli and pickled fennel salad
Both Marc and myself chose the salt and pepper calamari as our entrée. It was so tender and had a very delicate, crunchy coating. I knew there was saffron in the aioli before I even read it on the menu. It's not always the case that something labelled 'saffron' actually tastes like there's saffron in it.
Insalata - proscuitto and fig salad with basil, mozzarella and vincotto
Dad chose the prosciutto and fig salad. This was actually the other item I was considering. It looked very pretty on the plate with balls of baby mozzarella.
Rigatoni - with braised lamb ragout, semi dried tomatoes, red wine jus and shaved pecorino
For our mains, I had the rigatoni with lamb ragout. This dish was so hearty and delicious. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was full of tender braised lamb. It had a rich, red wine flavour and whilst this might seem like a winter dish, I could eat this kind of food any time of the year. I'm pretty sure I caught Marc staring at my plate with jealousy.
Risotto - tiger prawn risotto with preserved lemon, mascarpone and fresh peas
Marc had chosen the prawn risotto. This looked like a lighter main but if you get 2-3 courses it should be enough to fill you up. Marc has a heftier appetite than most and his comment is that it was "good but not plentiful". Lucky he had half of my dish to finish off. I struggle to make risotto look presentable at home so I applaud the effort at Il Centro to come up with such a photogenic dish.
Meringa - Italian meringue with raspberry sorbet and mixed berry salad
Most of us shared our dessert course. This was an Italian meringue with berry coulis and sorbet. The meringue was the crunchy variety (kind of like a supermarket one if I'm honest) and the sauce was tangy and sweet. Dad found the whole thing to be too sweet and I agree with him. I fought with Marc over morsels of ice-cream to balance the sweetness.
Il Centro offered a wonderfully pleasant dining experience. It's nice to see how different a restaurant feels during the day versus at night. Our table was quite large so it was a complicated mess of orders but our waiter tolerated us and there were no stuff ups. I really enjoyed my entrée and main but the dessert was less remarkable.