To celebrate our dear Naffon’s 21st birthday (a good friend – a bro – of mine), we went to Casa Di Nico – one of the few restaurants in the CBD which a) isn’t too pricey and b) can sit large groups. Because you know, Naffon’s super popular and all that. Around 40 (more?) people came, and had to be sat on two of their long tables. Dayum.
Oh wait, this is a food blog. Um yes. So Casa Di Nico is a Darling Harbour wharfside Italian restaurant. As such, it has an alfresco element to it. I’ve walked past it many times, but have never visited. Thanks to Naffon for hitting up with this place. Casa Di Nico doesn’t excel at anything out of the stuff I’ve tried, but they do everything well enough. It’s a pretty good restaurant to take groups to and you can’t go wrong.
Date Visited: 6/12/2012
Address: The Promenade, King St Wharf Sydney, NSW 2000
Go-to dish: salmon fillet – pan fried in extra virgin olive oil, potato, green beans & tomato w/lemon gremolata
Lots of decorations pepper the outside, overall creating a nice sense of warmth and welcoming spirit. This was made more so by the fact that it was nearing Xmas at the time, and there were appropriately-themed decorations to boot.
The Italian flavour is quite strong – liberally utilising the colours of Italy. I’m not sure if this is what it’s actually like in Italy, but boy you definitely know you’re eating Italian when you’re signing up for this place.
The first course is a shared bread platter. All the usual suspects are here.
Spot on with the condiments – more olive oil could have been used, but other than that very satisfactory. Olives are powerful and full of flavour – stay away if you don’t eat them!
The Ciabatta has been left to cool, and while I’d have preferred it hot it’s understandable why it’s pointless to do that – most people wait before they start eating. No way the bread could have maintained that temperature. As a result, it’s bland by itself, but works well once the olive oil & olives come into play. The way it’s meant to be.
I really liked the garlic bread here – I knew I liked it because even when it was nearly cool it still retained excellent texture and aroma. Not sure how they did that, but it’s a great result. Great!
Similar compliments go to the bruschetta. The grilled bread is deliciously crunchy and toasty, while the tomatoes & accompanying relish are – very importantly – fresh. It tastes the part, and it’s actually some of the better bruschetta I’ve had. Don’t skip this one.
Moving onto the mains, we first have the chicken saltimbocca, which was excellent, really. The only real complaint was that the chicken skin really got in the way. Casa Di Nico didn’t turn the skin crispy, but rather left it as the soggy mess it is in its natural state. If it’s like that, it needs to be removed. Soggy skin is a no no. The chicken was also a little dry (why does every piece of chicken I taste seem dry? I need my taste buds checked out…).
If you remove the skin yourself, and eat the meat with the mash, the dish becomes excellent. The taste really is spot on – also gotta love the strong flavours of the prosciutto.
I liked the salmon the best. This was a very good fillet – it was oily, the meat pries apart softly with ample heat inside. It’s cooked very well, and not to the point where it becomes tough. The texture is completely nailed. The taste could use just a little more pizzaz, but I then again I was never one to just accept a lemon dressing and call that the flavour booster. Luckily, salmon doesn’t need too much flavour boosting in the first place. It goes surprisingly well with the potato
The steak here is pretty good too, actually. It’s tender for the most part, and only really falls apart along the edges where the rind becomes incredibly intrusive. Gotta cut that part out.
While the steak could be had by itself, eating it with the garlic mash is recommended – you just can’t go wrong with that mashy goodness. You can’t like food if you don’t like mash. Hah. For additional steak flavour enhancements, the pancetta is a nice touch – just in case you’re not getting enough flavour from the tenderloin itself.
OK so it’s your run of the mill salad, which tastes as good as salad gets – the vegetables are quite fresh, and the dressing optimal. A good bite to get between some seriously heavy courses.
Moving along to the desserts, we have a tiramisu that tastes great. Can’t go wrong here! You can really taste the bittersweet wine, as well as the powerful aroma of coffee beans. And God, that’s a lot of mascarpone.
Yet another deliciously guilty dessert consumed by the Shen…
Oh it ain’t just a warm chocolate fondant – it’s actually HOT. Which is AWESOME. I mean, don’t burn yourself, but let it cool down to the point where it’s warmer than warm and you’ve in for gooey goodness. The fondant is not made perfectly, but it is made quite well nonetheless. The chocolate is mostly creamy and smooth. It’s really quite good.
The ice cream is also quite nice. It’s not mindblowing, but it does work very well as an accompaniment to the fondant. The contrast between the cold, refreshing ice cream and the hot, rich fondant is always amazing. Exploit it.
So yeah, Casa Di Nico is a great restaurant. The food is all generally good quality, with none of the pervasive hatted-experimental nonsense if that’s what turns you off. Indeed, most of the time you shouldn’t really have to care that your meal isn’t made using exotic ingredients or cooked in exotic ways – as long as it tastes good, right?
And once again, Happy 21st Naffon!
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: genuinely good Italian food with none of the fancy and all of the taste
What could be better: Some dishes could’ve been improved with simple changes, I still want warm bread
I give Casa Di Nico a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10