And it has begun, the start of our Thursday night dining mission is on and I must admit I feel like a kid in a candy store! As we get our list together of all the eateries we need to hit, The Hubby & I have decided that instead of drawing a name out of a hat – – we will select our restaurant based on what type of cuisine we are desiring, how we are tracking on our weekly budget and what mood the weather has set. Well, that is the idea at least, we will see if it will work down the line.
After a week of cooking up big main meals, I was feeling a change of pace with maybe a tapas style dinner or even an Italian style cuisine to warm the winter chill. We threw around a couple ideas and then unanimously agreed on the Belgrave Cartel. The Hubby & I have been to the Belgrave before for numerous Cha Ching art events, which is run by good friends of ours. These events conjure a fabulous excuse to gather and mingle with friends, meet new people and of course appreciate and support the talents of local artists. The Belgrave is always alive and buzzing durning these events and morphs into a groovy bar scene with a DJ, drinks galore and nibbles coming out of the kitchen to fulfil the guests. We have only had dinner there once before but that was prior the reno which now includes a full service kitchen among other enhancements. So tonight, we were looking and tasting with a new set of senses and seeing the Belgrave for its dinner spot potential.
It turns out that selecting the Belgrave couldn’t have been more perfect. When we rocked up, we glanced through the menu on the outside table and noticed it was organised in small share plates and then a few big plates which included a ‘Mama’s Lasagne’. It was exactly the type of cuisine style The Hubby & I were looking for, a true serendipitous moment. Later on, I was to learn that this cuisine is dubbed ‘Stuzzichini’ meaning Spanish tapas with an Italian twist according to the rhetoric the Cartel has online! Love it!
We were seated in the main bar area, just in front of the kitchen. There were three other tables of diners and to my delight a solo musician setting up to preform. The interior decor certainly enhances the space and creates an intimate setting that caresses the senses… the low lighting sets the mood perfectly too. Then the sounds of the live guitar began and I felt as if we were in some uber cool Brooklyn food and wine bar. I was impressed and happy to have finally discovered this cafe, turned wine bar by night, and to see it for what it offers the local community.
Having decided to jump on the wagon for the month of June, we did not order any alcoholic beverages. The cocktail list was very appealing to The Hubby though, and he noted that he certainly would have started with one of those tempting concoctions. Next time. So straight into the menu and we selected three small plates consisting of Garlic Butter King Prawns with Cherry Tomato & Basil, Caesar Salad in Parmesan Cups and Salami & Goats Cheese Stuffed Pepper Poppers. For the main plate we could not look past the Mama’s Lasagne…The Hubby had heard that this was not to be missed. So we were set until the waitress came to take our order and sweetly smiled with an acknowledgement that she might put a spanner in the works when she mentioned the specials. Upon hearing of the Pork Ragu Pie, we added that special to our order without hesitation. Order up!
The first dish that came out was the Caesar Salad cups followed by the special Pork Ragu pie. There were three little Caesar cups in total, the lettuce was dressed just right and it was nicely shredded to accommodate the size of the cups too. I really enjoyed the parmesan cups, they were quite clever and completed the Caesar Salad ensemble nicely.
The Pork Ragu pie came with a side of garlic mash with a big spoonful of mushy peas on top. A little surprise to our special that we were not aware of but very happy to receive. That pie was to die for, the pork was nicely shredded and tender and the crisp pastry was spot on… it has even inspired The Hubby to try his own pork ragu this weekend! Ha!
Next came the Garlic Prawn dish which was accompanied with a few bits of toast to dip in the gorgeous buttery garlic goodness at the bottom of the bowl. No joke, the prawn dish felt like an bottomless bowl, we were super pleased with the order and impressed by the value as well. This is an absolute essential order, if you are a seafood lover.
Our last small plate dish, the Poppers, came out while we were digging into the prawns. The Hubby loves chillies and is not afraid of food with some kick. I knew that these bad boys might be over my heat threshold but I was still game to give it a go. The Poppers are actually jalepeño peppers that have been stuffed with goats cheese and salami and then battered and deep fried. There were four in total and came with an aioli dipping sauce. BOOM! They were tasty little fire crackers but not for the heat adversed. I managed one by taking small bites every so often and did really enjoy the flavours even though I gave my second one to The Hubby. If you like some kick to your food, don’t look past these little babies!
When Mama’s Lasagne came out, it just oozed Italy… the aroma teased you with delight, the pasta was fresh and beautiful and the herbs were well chosen. It was delicious and a perfect size for us to split. Although, you could easily just have one for yourself if you didn’t go for all the small plates to begin.
The Hubby and I left the Belgrave feeling like we had just experienced something special. And we certainly had! We didn’t break the bank either and paid $64 in total for our delicious and satisfying meal. We found the staff incredibly friendly and genuine, the atmosphere alluring and intimate and can confidently say that we will be back for more Stuzzichini goodness in a heart beat. The Belgrave is now officially on our go-to list, yew!