Italian with lots of amore

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Seared scallops on carrot puree with pan tossed spring onions, oyster mushrooms and baby english spinach. Photo by Silas

In many ways, La Scala in the city offers a classic Italian dining experience – warm décor, classic dishes created from recipes steeped in history, an extensive (and impressive) wine list and attentive service with amore.

For decades, this multiple award-winning Canberra institution has been serving customers under the watchful eye of brothers Gab and Enrico Saccardo.

It does so with the confidence of knowing what it is and where it sits in the marketplace.

Many of La Scala’s dishes are authentic Italian, but the chefs are not afraid to branch out with modern twists that go far beyond pizza, pasta, pizza, pasta, pizza, pasta.

We settled into a dining area at the back and were soon enjoying mouth-watering, razor-thin slices of eye fillet carpaccio ($16), drizzled with fine extra virgin olive oil, capers, lemon juice, quality Parmesan cheese shavings and bright green, peppery rocket. Yummo!

The antipasto we shared was not super exciting – certainly nowhere near the level of most of the mains.

If you order the Scaloppine La Scala ($28.80), heed the warning on the menu: “Richer than rich and smoother than silk, but teeth like a lion”. The first half of the description belongs to the veal scallops with bacon, garlic and cream and the second half to the chilli that packs a punch in the dish. The flavours are vibrant and it is no surprise this has become one of La Scala’s signature selections.

The kingfish fillet, coated in prosciutto and carrot slivers, was baked medium rare. An attractive dish, it was served with a roasted trio of capsicum and finished with a sexy vanilla, saffron and cream sauce. Moment on the lips and lifetime on the hips, but who cares? It’s not as though you would eat a dish like this every night.

Grilled lamb rump on a beetroot and Desiree potato puree. Photo by Silas
The grilled lamb rump was tender, as was my twice-cooked pork belly. It was served on creamy, smooth mash with lovely lentils, but I found the meat slightly over cooked.

All mains were served on white rectangular plates and beautifully presented, and the portions were just right.

La Scala is named after the famous and opulent Opera House of Milan. There is nothing opulent about the décor of the restaurant, but it is cosy, especially on a cold winter night.

La Scala, Garema Place, Civic, Monday-Friday lunch from midday; dinner seven days, from 6pm. Call 6248 8338.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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