I can only think of one national cuisine where its signature dish embodies the colours of its flag. Vibrant and aromatic basil leaves atop fresh and creamy buffalo mozzarella that oozes over a rich Napoli sauce over a bread base – that is the essence of a margherita.
It is easy to find an Italian restaurant, but discovering a good Italian restaurant is harder to come by. Tucked cosily in the warren of NewActon, Bicicletta is an Italian trattoria, with an ethos as patriotic as a margherita pizza.
A relaxed, trattoria style vibe, Bicicletta is all about being engulfed in a busy and energetic buzz of a dining hall. It has the eclectic fit-out to match; industrial undertones with metal light fittings, concrete and shiny tiles are mish-mashed with dark brown leather seats, stained glass, wooden panels and a giant painted mural depicting Italian produce and bicycles.
Smooth jazz music fills the ears while you are wistfully distracted by the charming cartoon sketch of a man on a bicycle hand drawn onto every table setting.
True to its Italian trattoria style, Bicicletta’s menu is extensive, has something for everyone and won’t leave you hungry.
Begin the dining experience in true Italian style grazing off the antipasta menu. The Caprese salad is a wonderfully light option to start and is another dish that displays colourful patriotism. It’s a classic example of simplicity at its best. With only a handful of ingredients, the success of this dish relies on the quality of each component to achieve perfection.
Sliced rosso verace tomatoes are firm and fresh, the perfect platform for thick rounds of snowy white buffalo mozzarella, milky and subtle in taste and elastic in texture. Whole basil leaves are the green of the trio and the last flavour constituent, delivering its punchy herby aromatics and subtle sweetness to the combination. Light-tasting extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of dried oregano and salty seasoning tie the three ingredients together as a successful whole.
It doesn’t get any better than a tangle of spaghetti tossed through a silky marinara sauce and medley of seafood. A perfect balance of deep herb notes and sweet tomato tones, the delicate flavours of the Spaghetti ai frutti mare are achieved through a complicated and time consuming process that extracts every ounce of flavour out of each ingredient.
With an authentically Italian chewy bite, the pasta slips deliciously through the smooth sauce and is the perfect fold for tender squid, flavoursome prawns, juicy scallops and fresh pipis.
If pasta or pizzas don’t take your fancy, the Anatra cottura lenta is a fantastic option. Slow-cooked for over three hours, the flavours of this deliciously succulent duck have had enough time to linger and mingle to deliver a rich dish of gamey flavours and sweet plum sauce.
The duck is twice cooked to achieve a satisfyingly crisp skin that is a nice crunchy contrast to the lustrous meat that falls easily off the bone.
If you haven’t already done so with the duck, mop up the delicious plum reduction with the pepperonata; a chunky and herby mix of silky capsicum and roasted potatoes that is delightfully moreish on its own.
It couldn’t be an Italian establishment without pizza, and Bicicletta more than adequately fits the bill. With an emphasis on flavour combinations rather than the amount of ingredients that can physically fit on a base, these pizzas are typical of the Roman style of pizza construction.
The magic happens when you take a large bite of a slice, allowing oozing cheese to fall messily down your chin and experiencing the perfect combination of thin base, fluffy crust and carefully curated toppings.
The Vegetariana is a standout combination of sweet roasted pumpkin, sautéed spinach, creamy ricotta, crunchy pine nuts and salty mozzarella, under the bitter crunch of fresh rocket leaves.
Numb from satisfying nourishment, an affogato is the perfect creamy mouthful of bitter-sweet to cap it all off – now that’s amore!