Going Steady in the Windy City: L’Italiano the perfect Geraldton dinner date for any occasion

Headshot of Lisa Favazzo
Lisa FavazzoGeraldton Guardian
David Gonzalez Parra, Maurizio Sansone and Maria Sabbadini from L'Italiano.
Camera IconDavid Gonzalez Parra, Maurizio Sansone and Maria Sabbadini from L'Italiano. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

Like most Geraldton-based foodies, L’Italiano is where my date and I go on special occasions.

Unfortunately — or perhaps, fortunately — we’ve expanded our definition of “special occasion” since first dining in the cosy Foreshore Drive restaurant, which could be twice the size and still book out every Friday and Saturday night.

We are persistently disorganised and usually call up last-minute to try to secure a table. We have learnt perseverance is key when trying to get through during service on a Friday or Saturday night.

I have lain on my bed, with my feet in the air and chilli oil on my mind countless times, pressing “try again” on a failed call for five straight minutes.

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The question of whether it’s worth it came up on the noticeboard a few days ago. I am here to say it is. I think it makes the food taste better — a faint note of exclusivity always dances gently on the taste buds.

I don’t let any visiting friends or family leave town without taking them to L’Italiano.

The platter comes with sturdy chunks of cheese, sun-dried tomato, eggplant, zucchini, olive oil and bread. When sitting around the table lost in good conversation, it’s easy to overdo it with this dish — but, not as easy as it is to overdo it with the wine.

After spending nearly a decade working in upscale bars, my date is a bit of a wine snob. He always picks our bottles when we head out for a nice meal, and he always does a damn fine job.

He describes this gem as a “cool-climate shiraz” with a “soft, silky, but full body”.

“It’s sweet, with a touch of spice and low tannins,” he said.

Last fortnight, my parents were in town. So, naturally, we went to L’Italiano, ordering our usual starter as soon as we noticed the freshly picked flowers on our table.

After that, we picked our mains, which is never an easy feat. My date ordered nonna’s lasagne. I went for the vegetarian cannelloni. And, my parents both went for the spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino. Mum added cacciatore salami, and Dad added prawns. Spaghetti, aglio, olio e peperoncino — which means spaghetti, garlic, oil and chilli — is my favourite dish on the menu, and I generally add grilled eggplant or zucchini.

Narelle and Tom Favazzo.
Camera IconNarelle and Tom Favazzo. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

From what I can tell, whatever you add takes over the flavour.

Tom Favazzo, my dad, who added prawns, said his dish had a “ fantastic hit of citrus”, which wasn’t in my mum’s dish.

“The pasta is perfectly cooked and I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.

“Actually, I wish I had ordered 12 prawns instead of six.” My cannelloni was delightful.

Using my fork, I had to use a reasonable amount of pressure to break through the crisp and cheesy outer skin and thick pasta sheet, eventually reaching a well-balanced spinach and ricotta mixture.

My date almost always orders nonna’s lasagne, finishing the giant serving like a champ.

He says the sauce is extremely rich and creamy.

Of British stock, my date grew up on lasagne with heavy tomato sauce and mincemeat.

This version couldn’t be more different, with egg, ham and vegges, he said.

“I just keep going back for more,” he said.

All of these dishes were — of course — enhanced by the house-made chilli oil we poured liberally over our meals.

Speaking scientifically, I would say the chilli oil made my cannelloni a bazillion times more squisito. Somehow, we found room in our bodies for more food. It was that particular space in our bellies reserved for creamy gelato from a fancy glass dish, topped with a decorative wafer.

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino with prawns from L'Italiano in Geraldton.
Camera IconAglio, Olio e Peperoncino with prawns from L'Italiano in Geraldton. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

Eating a filling meal and regularly topping up my glass with a hearty red wine, I can’t help but feel like an exhausted traveller stopping at an old-timey candle-lit inn to escape the snow and rest my tired feet.

You know, the kind of place where you might meet a stoic stranger who agrees to accompany you on a quest in exchange for 30 gold pieces.

L’Italiano is the perfect place to end or begin an adventure.

I am writing this piece on my last day working for the Geraldton Guardian. By the time you read this story, I’ll be 3676km away — that’s a 39-hour drive. After spending 18 months here, Geraldton is stuck in my heart like a grass seed on a long skirt. And this restaurant is the backdrop of some of my fondest memories.

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