by Mei Leong
Siciliana pizza, $16. Topped with anchovy, olives, cacciatore sausage, chilli and lots of stringy, melty cheese…
From Portuguese egg tarts to soft tacos, tasting this year’s nominees for the Feast Food Awards was so much fun (and calories!!)… but if I had to pick the most memorable find, it would be Ruocco’s. To be honest, I had low expectations of Ruocco’s (by god there’s a lot of sub standard pizza in this city…). But with a crackling wood fired oven, a dining room with old school frescoes of Italy and 70’s style bull horned lights, I have to admit I loved Ruocco’s from the get go.
The service is genuinely friendly and the extensive menu has down to earth pricing, which is a rarity in Perth. How I wish this was my local Italian restaurant. (I really do and I’d move to Freo in a heartbeat if I could. It’s got everything – food, culture, fish and chips…) In the quiet before lunch rush, our two pizzas arrived piping hot from the oven. Perfectly round with crusts blistered to perfection, the pizzas were puffed up and bounteous. The dough within was pillowy, while the exterior had that distinct, wood fired crisp. Basically, it was the stuff of pizza dreams.
(The Feast Food Awards 2013 are now available as an app. This month’s issue, September, is particularly gorgeous – and I’m not saying that just because it has a well written feature on North Perth and my friend Albis, on the back page – but the cover featuring noodles is just stunning. Plug over.)
Gamberetti (prawn) pizza, $20, strewn with tomato, Spanish onion and rocket.
Lavished with slick fillets of anchovy, the Siciliana is for the anchovy die hard. Hits of sea and salt hid amongst the slippery peppers, cacciatore sausage and pools of super stringy mozzarella cheese. Elastic strings of cheese followed every piece with the cheesy blandness complementing the scant but punchy toppings. The prawn pizza was equally as good, with plump prawns plopped here and there. With rocket, tomato and Spanish onion strewn on for sharpness, the pizza was fresh and zingy.
So enamoured we were by the pizza, we made a second visit to discover the rest of the menu. The spaghetti marinara has a thick, herbaceous sauce that clung to the pasta. There was a decent range of seafood in the bowl – vongole, mussels, fish, squid and the like. However what I loved was that hat of rocket and parmesan, lending bite to the rather sweet marinara sauce.
Spaghetti marinara, $25.
Grilled calamari, $19.
A staple of Italian menus, the grilled squid and chips was surprisingly delicious. Cooked over high heat, each little squid tube had a scorched, flavoursome crust. Tossed with garlic, parsley and chilli with lemon squeezed over, it was impressive to see a common dish done simply with consideration to freshness and flavour. Served with a big garden salad and chips, this is the best calamari dish I’ve seen for ages.
Quattro stagioni pizza, $17.
The quattro stagioni pizza starring the foursome of prawns, pepperoni, mushrooms and peppers, was not as good a choice as our previous pizzas. The crust was still soft and pillowy, but the pizza was overwhelmed with cheese so the toppings were a little under done. So pick your flavours wisely.
Ruocco’s as I understand it, was a landmark local family business until it shut down sometime last year. I can’t say much for the food before but the new owners seem to be doing a good job. The restaurant has a neighbourhood quaintness that’s so rare nowadays. The food is fresh, pleasurable to eat and well executed. Head and shoulders above anything on the Cappuccino Strip, if you’re in Freo or even south of the river, Ruocco’s is worth checking out.
Ruocco’s Pizzeria e Ristorante
217 South Terrace, South Fremantle WA
T: (08) 9335 6939
Tue – Sun, 11.30am – 10pm
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