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Little Ricardo’s, Cairns

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After our massive binge in Sydney the last thing that MS and I wanted to do was come home and continue on our downward spiral… NOT!  We started out with the best of intentions but at some point in time on our flight home we decided that we would re-start our healthy eating the next day and not that afternoon as originally planned.  (Disclaimer:  I’m not going to be one of those people that harp on about healthy eating and me being on a diet and other boring sh*t like that because when it comes down to it I normally eat what I want, within reason, but like I said I have a particular goal in mind – no it’s not just to lose weight – and all this is part of the story, ok?)

Then the conversation of just where we were going to eat that night began.  MS, true to form, wanted to go to Bel Paese since he had quite a penchant for large creamy bowls of pasta and cheesy garlic bread.  I was a little reluctant to go to Bel Paese, firstly because our last dining experience there wasn’t anything to write home about and because, well, I have already written about that place.  If I was only allowed one cheat meal a week then in theory it needed to be somewhere that we hadn’t already been so I could post about it on foodvixen later.  So, we decided on the pasta theme but couldn’t think of where to go.  I suggested Fasta Pasta, La Fettuccina and Villa Romana but neither of us were really excited by any of those suggestions.  Last time I went to Villa Romana, which was years ago, my dining buddy found a giant moth in her salad and last time MS and I went to Fasta Pasta we ordered two completely different dishes to find they both tasted exactly the same.  As for La Fettuccina, well, I am saving that one for a special occasion.  Then I remembered a little place that we had walked past on Sheridan Street about six months ago.  Hell, we drive past it nearly every day.  So off to Little Ricardo’s we went.

Little Ricardo’s is located on the strip of cheap motels directly across the road from Cairns High.  Everyone has driven past and seen it there, as have I.  It’s just inside, near the pool area of the Adobe Motel.  I don’t know how long it’s been there but at the very least it’s been there since 2008 because an outdated sign out the front claims that Little Ricardo’s was voted Best Pizza in 2008 by Cairns locals.  We went inside and found ourselves in a quaint little restaurant with dim lighting, a stocked wooden bar over to the left and the air conditioner turned up full bull.  We were greeted by a friendly waitress whose name was Julie Ann and since there was no one else in the restaurant at the time she let us choose our table.  With a bit of a shiver from the aircon MS and I chose one-off to the side out of the direct breeze.  Julie Ann asked if we would like her to turn the fan above us off to make us a little more comfortable to which we happily obliged.  She then brought us over a couple of menu’s and a jug of water with some glasses and left us for a few minutes returning to take our drinks order.  I was happy to stick to water but MS asked if he could have a glass of Coke to be brought out with dinner.  The menu had the usual Italian fare and although the pizza’s were voted the ‘Best in Town’ in 2008 we were both there for the pasta.

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There was no dilly dallying in deciding what we wanted at Little Ricardo’s, even MS made up his mind quickly for once.  We chose the Garlic Bread (AU$5.90) as our entrée but asked if we could have cheese on it as well.  Julie Ann happily obliged and assured us it wouldn’t be a problem.  Then for his main meal MS chose a large Boscaola with Tasty Cheese, Mushroom and Parmesan for AU$23.90 with Fettucine.  He also added bacon, chicken and a hint of chilli to his dish (we’re not difficult customers I swear!), which Julie Ann said was also not a problem at all.  After tossing up between the Amatriciana and the Marinara pasta I ended up going with the Marinara which was described on the menu as Fresh Local Seafood Combination with the choice of Cream or Tomato Base for AU$25.90.  The Fresh Local Seafood Combination sold me pretty much straight away.  I also chose the fettuccine and opted for the tomato base as opposed to the heavy cream base.  Ok, ok I have a confession to make… I ordered a large serve too.  Don’t judge me.

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While we were waiting for our meals to arrive a couple more tables filled up and then a couple more until there was about 5 more occupied tables in the restaurant.  I was pretty impressed considering that it was a Monday night.  Many restaurants in the city would struggle to get that amount of people in on a Monday.  Julie Ann brought over a big bowl of ‘stinky cheese’ as MS calls it whereas I just call it powdered Parmesan Cheese and some little plates and cutlery followed closely by our entrée of Cheesy Garlic Bread.  We got three pieces each and after fighting over who got the three biggest pieces we dug in.  The Garlic Bread was simple, yet tasty and with just the right amount of cheese melted over the top.  It was really yummy and not as yellow as it looks in the picture below.  We even managed to save a couple of pieces to mop up our pasta sauce with.  I have a massive weakness for Garlic Bread and if I were religious I would ask god “Why, oh why did you invent Garlic Bread?”  Just when I think I am going good and eating well.  BAM!  Someone brings out a loaf of Garlic Bread (or I order it) aaaaaaand I’m screwed.

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Cheesy Garlic Bread for AU$5.90

Right before our meals arrived and without prompting Julie Ann brought MS over a glass of coke and placed it on the table in front of us.  Again I was impressed. I hadn’t had service this pleasing in Cairns for a long time (with the exception of Waterbar and Grill).  The owner of the restaurant Richard brought us out our main meals which were placed steaming hot in front of us.  He saw me whip my iPhone out to take a couple of pictures of the food and politely offered to take a picture of the two of us.  Errr, yeah sure!  Richard was lovely and friendly and we had a bit of a laugh with him about him covering half of the photo with his thumb.  Never mind, nothing a little photo cropping won’t fix and I have sh*t tins of photos of MS and I at dinner anyway.  The large serve really was a large serve.  Each of our bowls were overflowing with large mounds of pasta.  There was plenty of extra bacon and chicken mixed through MS’ Boscaola and he was beside himself as he twirled his first mouthful of fettuccine around his fork.  After a few mouthfuls the only sentence that escaped his mouth was ‘Oh god this is good’ as he twirled more fettuccine around his fork.  It was that good that he ate till he couldn’t fit another mouthful in, leaving only a couple of strands of pasta in the bottom of his bowl and announced that Little Ricardo’s was his new favourite restaurant.

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Boscaola with Tasty Cheese, Mushroom, Parmesan and extra Bacon, Chicken and a hint of Chilli (AU$23.90)

Looking down at my pasta I could see two big fat juicy scallops with the bright orange roe on them (as it should be!) and my mouth began to salivate.  There was also prawns, fish and super tender pieces of squid mixed in as well.  My Marinara was absolutely to die for and I was glad that I had chosen that over the Amatriciana (even though I hadn’t had the Amatriciana yet).  The pasta was cooked ‘al dente’ and the bountiful bits of seafood throughout my dish were all full of flavour and cooked to perfection.  My mouth is seriously drooling thinking about this dish.  There was just the right amount of sauce, not too little, not too much and with a bit of ‘stinky cheese’ sprinkled over the top I too ate nearly the entire bowl and mopped up the remaining sauce with my ‘smaller’ pieces of Garlic Bread.  The only thing that I think it needed was a little hint of chilli but that was my own fault for not asking for it.  Where’s my bottle of Tabasco sauce when I need it?

Marinara with Fresh Local Seafood Combination and the choice of a Cream or Tomato base (I chose Tomato) for AU$25.90

Marinara with Fresh Local Seafood Combination and the choice of a Cream or Tomato base (I chose Tomato obviously) for AU$25.90

MS and I joked that we had just traveled to a foodie lovers paradise (AKA Sydney) and then flown back to Cairns and had the best meal and service of the entire weekend.  Even though the restaurant picked up with more arrivals after our own Julie Ann didn’t miss a beat and delivered fantastic, efficient and friendly service from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.  The atmosphere and dining setting isn’t fantastic  and to be honest it’s pretty dated but you know what?  I think it works.  On doing a little bit of online research it appears that Little Ricardo’s is ranked 5th in Cairns out of over 200 restaurants on Trip Advisor, which doesn’t mean a whole lot since I am still trying to figure out why an ice cream shop is number one, but it definitely pays homage to the wonderful things Richard and his team are doing down there at the Adobe Motel.  (No offence to the ice cream shop.)  The only problem with going to Little Ricardo’s for the first time is that now MS and I want to go there all the time and have already been back again (this time for more Cheesy Garlic Bread and to try the Amatriciana).  Little Ricardo’s where have you been all my life?

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Little Ricardo’s

191 Sheridan Street, Cairns QLD 4870 (Adobe Motel)

Ph: (07) 4051 5266

Opening Hours: 6 days Mon – Sat 5pm till late

Website: http://www.littlericardos.com

Il Convivio, Cairns *CLOSED DOWN*

A couple of days ago EG and I found ourselves looking for somewhere to get a cup of coffee after a few rounds on the Red Arrow (ok it was only two but hey) and we ended up at Il Convivio. Il Convivio is an Italian deli cafe run by the same family that ran Vanella Cheese Factory in Portsmith (now closed down). It’s conveniently located directly across the road from Cairns Central on the corner. Now even though EG and I only went in for a caffeinated beverage after spying the ridiculously mouth watering menu we simply had to order something! After a little umming and ahhing we decided on the Antipasto Rustico Della Casa for one (AU$15) to share since we weren’t that hungry but just wanted to try a bit of what they had to offer. The platter arrived with a trio of smallgoods (prosciutto, sopressa and mortadella maybe?), a trio cheese (goats cheese, mozzarella and a cheddary type one?), mixed marinated vegetables, olives and homemade bread.

Antipasto Rustico Della Casa for One (AU$15)

It came out on a wooden bread board with the bread sliced on a separate plate and OMFG I was in heaven. The bread! The marinated vegies! The cheese! The meats! The only thing that would have topped off the whole platter would have been some sort of homemade dip to go with it all, something that EG and I both agreed on.

Amazing Homemade Bread

The Antipasto Rustico Della Casa was delicious and great value for something to share between two people but you could always upgrade to the two person antipasto for AU$25 if you want a little more (of course you do!). Unfortunately the coffee at Il Convivio does however leave a little to be desired. Both our coffees were too hot and tasted like water. Pretty disappointing considering Italians are renowned for their coffee.

Disappointing Tasteless Flat White

I really want to go back and try more items from the menu like the other antipasto and the panini’s and the pizzas. Yeah pretty much everything to be honest. I think I’m definitely going to have to start doing more than two rounds of the Red Arrow.

Il Convivio

58 – 62 McLeod St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 40521 7477

Opening Hours: Mon – Thurs 6am – 4.30pm, Fri 6am – 4.30pm & 6pm – 9.30pm, Sat 6am – 3pm

La Porchetta, Cairns

It was Sunday night and MS and I were so damn hungover that all we really wanted to do was eat crap food (or as the professionals call it – Carb Load).  The whole hangover thing really isn’t doing wonders for my self esteem especially when we end up at La Porchetta with our Table 52 card.  No carbs as of next week I swear!  So yeah like I said we rocked up at La Porchetta on the Sunday and we were greeted by an unfriendly lady at the counter that showed us to a table right next to another couple.  Being the ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ type person that he is MS promptly moved us to another table a little further down and outside the 1 metre radius to other diners that was expected of us.  I know that waitstaff do that so it’s easier to serve you but it just seemed a little close to everyone else considering we were pretty much in an empty restaurant.

The lady bought us some water since that was probably all I could stomach and it made me feel better about the content of the meal I was about to consume.  We had a look over their extensive menu and I mean it is a pretty extensive menu from Parmigiana’s to Calzones to Salad.  We both knew what we wanted (pizza and pasta) but it was just choosing which type that proved difficult.  MS chose the Pollo Et Fungi which was Lean Chicken Pieces, Spring Onions, Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese in a Cream Sauce with Fettucine (AU$19.40) and in the end true to form I chose the Mushroom Pasta also with Fettucine (AU$18.20) because how good are mushrooms in pasta?  We also chose a medium Caprese Pizza with Tomato Base, Bocconcini, Fresh Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil to share for AU$18.80 (don’t judge us).

There was only two other occupied tables in the entire, extremely large restaurant and these tables were already eating or had finished their meals so I knew it wouldn’t take long for our meals to arrive.  We chatted about our extremely large night on the town that ended up in, well lets just say some practical jokes being played and a fire hose being discharged in an alley way to ease chilli burns in the nether regions (note: no revellers were injured in our escapades but MS may have suffered a little blow to his huge ego).  It was still a good night had by all despite the ensuing and cripling hangover that was continuing well into the evening for me.

Looking around the restaurant I noticed that the kitchen seems to be run by about 3 or 4 apprentice chefs.  I mean they could have been qualified but they were very young.  I didn’t care as long as my meal came out in good time and it tasted good.  Our meals arrived in good time and by god I am pretty sure my hangover eased just at the sight of that pizza.  It was cheesy, the base was crunchy, it had pesto on it and by all accounts I would have to say it’s one of the best pizzas that I have had in a long time.  I know one of my readers commented a little while back that La Porchetta has the best pizzas in town and I did say I would get there eventually.  Right you were my friend!  Ok, so the only other pizzas that I have had in the last 6 months would probably be a AU$5 pizza at Bella Vista 2-4-1’s on a Friday or the 4 Cheese Pizza from Bel Paese that I raved about a couple of months ago.  I’m going to have to break rank here and say that this La Porcetta Bocconcini and Tomato Pizza was better.  Oh god it was good.

Caprese Pizza – Tomato Base, Bocconcini, Fresh Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil (AU$18.80 )

Next up, our pasta dishes.  MS started out eating his.  I asked him how it was and he replied “Yeah it’s ok” but by halfway through the dish he decided that it was delicious and apparently just what the doctor ordered.  Since then MS’ review of his pasta dish has only improved and upon departure he confirmed that his pasta was in fact awesome.  Not quite as good as his first experience at Bel Paese but it was up there for sure.

Pollo Et Fungi – Lean Chicken Pieces, Spring Onions, Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese in a Cream Sauce with Fettucine (AU$19.40)

After I doused my pasta in Tabasco Sauce because lets face it, all pasta benefits from Tabasco Sauce, I dug in and I have to agree it was awesome in it’s carby goodness.  There was plenty of mushrooms in there and the serving size was massive for little old me but I still put a fair dint in it with very little left in my bowl when I finally decided I was finished.

Mushroom Pasta with Fettucine (AU$18.20)

So it turns out the unfriendly lady wasn’t so unfriendly after all, MS won her over with his wit and charm throughout our meal and she loosened up a little and even smiled in the end.  Seems to me that she had had a long week and was looking forward to closing time but she was nice enough.  First impressions really do count for me but she came good in the end.

In the end, after finishing off two bowls of pasta and a medium pizza (I’m pretty sure we shared a kebab in the wee hours of the morning – again don’t judge us) we went home and only communicated through grunts and moans from reclined positions on the couch.  But seriously, if you want a good feed of Pasta and (I’m gonna go out on a limb here) probably what some would consider to be the best pizzas in town (I’m an advocate) then head down to La Porchetta.  Hangover or no hangover it’s still gonna be just what the doctor ordered.

La Porchetta

108 – 114 Grafton St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4031 6661

Opening Hours: Mon – Sun 11.30am – 10pm

Website: www.laporchetta.com

4 Cheese Pizza @ Bel Paese, Cairns

Got to fulfill my wish of having the Award-Winning Four Cheese Pizza (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Blue) at Bel Paese last week and I have to say it was amazing!  Not to mention their yummy Puttanesca and the Fettucine Casa Nostra that MS ordered.  The only thing that could make this pizza better would be five cheeses!  So gooooood!

10″ Four Cheese Pizza (AU$16.90)

Bel Paese

45 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4051 6165

Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 5pm till late

Website: www.belpaesecairns.com.au

Bel Paese Restaurant Trattoria Pizzeria, Cairns

After months of thinking about it I finally managed to get myself down to local Italian restaurant Bel Paese last night after some encouragement from a friend of mine who dined there last week and loved it.  I have heard quite a bit about this little restaurant from a few people and from some reviews online so I decided I should ignore the carb content and go check it out.  I was accompanied by my good friend LL who recommended the Puttanesca.  I do know that Bel Paese has won awards for it’s Four Cheese Pizza but tonight I was looking for a pasta hit and since the Puttanesca came highly recommended that is exactly what I chose.  The Puttanesca is Pasta with Anchovies, Olives, Capers, Chilli, Garlic and Tomato (AU$18.90).  Some of you probably say “yuck” to the anchovies but I say “give me extra”!  I eat those things out of the jar!  While we waited for our mains to arrive LL and I argued about how long Bel Paese had been open in Cairns for.  He claimed that it had opened just after the Bavarian Beerhouse nextdoor (mid last year-ish) while I argued that it had been open for a few years.  The friendly waitress halted our bickering when she told us that it had indeed been open for a few years.  I won.

We waited about 15 minutes for our Puttanesca’s to arrive and they came chockers with olives, capers and little slivers of anchovies.  The chilli gave it that little bit of spice that I think every pasta needs.  I will have to be honest, I haven’t had too many Puttanesca’s in my time but this one was the best and I would have to say the best Italian meal that I have had in a while.  It was simply delicious and just the right serving size… Not too little, not too much.   We both really enjoyed our Puttanesca’s and after I finished my meal I had to thank LL for the pasta recommendation.  YUM!

Spaghetti Puttanesca – Anchovies, Olives, Capers, Chilli, Garlic, Tomato (AU$18.90)

Now I am asking myself if this little gem of an Italian restaurant has been open in Cairns for “a few years” then why oh why haven’t I been there earlier?  The decor at Bel Paese is nothing flash.  Well… the office chairs that you sit on certainly give it a bit of character but they are cushy to say the least.  We received great service and the food (well my Puttanesca) was fantastic and at AU$18.90 it was pretty cheap really.  There is none of this bullsh*t entree/main sized pasta dishes on the menu.  One size fits all at Bel Paese.

Bel Paese

45 Spence St, Cairns QLD 4870

Ph: (07) 4051 6165

Opening Hours: 5pm till late Mon-Sat

Website: www.belpaesecairns.com.au

Il Lido, Darwin

 

Hmm well where do I start?  Il Lido is a relatively new Italian restaurant in Darwin having only been open for a few months now.  It has a funky feel to it with cool couches and bright red chairs to sit on and drink cocktails in the outside area.  It’s located in a great spot, right down near Stokes Hill Wharf with views of the Darwin waterfront.  I have walked past and perused the menu a few times so I thought it was only appropriate that I go there for dinner.  Looking at the menu I noticed a few dishes that were strikingly similar to dishes on the menu at one of my fave Cairns restaurants Perotta’s At the Gallery (the Chilli Salt Squid Salad with Spiced Popcorn, the Warm Duck Salad and the Red Wine Braised Octopus with Watermelon Salad).  These dishes are very similar if not almost the same as dishes at Perotta’s.  On further research I found that Italian Chef Ivo Perrotta from Perotta’s At the Gallery is actually a Consultant Chef for Il Lido.  Now this all makes sense.  So I have heard mixed reports from people that have dined at Il Lido with some saying it was good and some saying that it was bad.  Only one way to find out right?Il Lido is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it was quite busy for a Wednesday night with most of the outside tables occupied.  The inside was quite bare with hardly anyone in there but on such a lovely night why would you want to sit inside?  We had a few drinks at the Cocktail Bar next door first off.  I had a Green Tea Mojito, which was very nice and then we moved to our table.

Green Tea Mojito (AU$15)

There was 9 of us dining this evening and as we sat down I noticed that the lighting was very dim and it was actually quite dark for the people sitting outside.  We didn’t order entree’s and went straight for the mains.  Three of the people at my table ordered the 250g Porcini Dry Rubbed Churchill Sirloin with Garlic Roast Potatoes, Balsamic Red Onions and Gorgonzola Butter (AU$34), all cooked medium rare.  The waiter informed them that their Sirloin didn’t come with many veges and so asked if they would like a side of Spiced Broccolini (AU$8) to with their main.  They consented to the Broccolini.  RW ordered the Roasted Barramundi with Peperonata, Olives, Zucchini and Salsa Verde for $32.  He also went with the Iceberg Wedges drizzled with Creamy Gorgonzola Dressing and Pinenuts (AU$8).  Across from me, MG ordered a main of Linguini with Tiger Prawns, Cherry Tomatoes, Fetta Cheese, Chilli and Fresh Lemon (AU$26).

Linguini with Tiger Prawns, Cherry Tomatoes, Fetta Cheese, Chilli and Fresh Lemon (AU$26)

CM ordered the Il Lido Caesar Salad, which came with all the things you would expect to come with a Caesar Salad as well as white anchovies, grissini and chicken.  Nick ordered the Warm Duck Salad with Mango, Candied Spiced Pistachio, Baby Beets, Endive and Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette (AU$23), while last but not least I ordered the 8 Hour Roast Lamb Shoulder with Three Wheat Salad, Date, Almonds, Pancetta and Spicy Cumin Yogurt (AU$33). The mains took about 20-30 minutes to arrive at our table and when they did come out they were staggered and we left waiting a good 5 to 10 minutes for some people’s dishes to arrive.  The three with the steaks were surprised at how small the dish was and were glad that they had ordered Broccolini on the side, however one of the steaks came out well done when it was supposed to be medium.  The waiter was informed of this and nothing was ever done about it.  No apologies, nothing.  That was pretty disappointing.  The Broccolini however was delicious and crisp.

Il Lido Caesar Salad (AU$15)

CM’s Caesar Salad was according to him “nothing special” and “my wife makes a better Caesar Salad”.  Marcus’ Tiger Prawn Linguini was apparently very tasty and was a good serving size however, disappointingly the prawns were imported and on a closer look at the menu quite a lot of the seafood was imported.  With the availability of high quality fresh seafood in Darwin there is no excuse for a new and pricey restaurant such as Il Lido not to have all Australian seafood on the menu.  The Coral Trout had by Ray was cooked nicely but again it was a very small portion with hardly anything else on the plate and in RW’s words “there was nothing special about it”.   The Warm Duck Salad ordered by NL went down well however he did comment on there only being one piece of mango on top of the salad and not through the salad as one would think.

8 hour roast lamb shoulder with 3 wheat salad, date, almonds, pancetta and spicy cumin yogurt (AU$33)

Lastly, my Lamb Shoulder was very tasty.  It came out in a sort of salad form though which I wasn’t expecting and was quite a small portion.  It was delicious and the Almonds and crunchy Pancetta with the Spicy Cumin Yogurt complimented the dish nicely.  So for my verdict and this was reiterated by the rest of the people at my table.  The food was overpriced and the portions were too small.  Again it’s disappointing to see imported seafood on the menu in a place like Darwin particularly prawns.  And the ‘non-response’ from the waiter when told about the steak being well done was pretty poor.  I probably won’t be back.  Sorry Il Lido you have a great atmosphere but the food and service let you down.

P.S:  Sorry about the dodgy photos, I blame the dim lighting (or it could have been the mojito and 3 glasses of wine).

Il Lido

19 Kitchener Drive, Darwin NT 0800

Ph: (08) 89 410900

Website: illidodarwin.com.au