Many Italians have immigrated to Australia over the years and Melbourne has benefitted immensely from Italian food and culture. Melbourne can credit these trailblazers, such as the Pellegrini family, who introduced the city to espresso coffee and copious amounts of pasta and pizza. You only need to walk down Lygon Street in Carlton to take in the sights and smells of simple, authentic Italian cuisine. Nothing speaks Melbourne more than these influences.
Simple flavours and a minimal amount of ingredients punctuate the goodness of Italian food, and the every-day act of enjoying a wholesome meal pieces together the spine of strong family connections. There’s never a better way to bring family and friends together than over a delicious meal. When we discovered there were a couple of vegan options on La Camera’s menu, we simply had to go. We also invited my in-laws for the trip to Southbank so we could try out the Italian cuisine on offer.
La Camera translates to “the room” but the space in which La Camera operates seems more homely than what “the room” implies. Beautiful black and white family photos, enlarged onto canvases, hang along the walls and the staff are friendly, warm and genuine. We decide to start with some antipasti. La Camera’s antipasti menu is all-encompassing though the grilled melanzane (eggplant) and peperoni (capsicum), plus a serve of bruschetta, make a fulfilling start to our sitting. The great thing about La Camera’s antipasti is that you can choose whichever item you want in quantities stipulated at tiered prices. There’s not a chance at overdoing it too early, which is wise because the pizzas are huge. Before we get to secondi (mains) we opt for the insalata vegana too, a large bowl of quinoa salad with mint, parsley, crunchy walnuts, cranberries and currants tossed in a pomegranate dressing.
A serve of emo pizza is delivered to us on its own cutting board and pizza wheel to cut it with. What is lovely about authentic pizza is that it’s thin, crispy and doesn’t go overboard with unnecessary toppings. This pizza is just that and holds the basics – tomato sauce base, roasted capsicum, olives, mushrooms, marinated zucchini and eggplant. We later discover that this pizza is named after the owner’s good friend; a personable touch to an Italian classic.
My pasta is just as simplistic – spaghetti carretiera. I adore spaghetti and I adore this particular dish because it’s light yet filling and tasty. Again, there are the staple ingredients of garlic, chilli oil, freshly torn basil, tomatoes and olive oil. It can’t get any simpler, and tastier, than that!
Indulge in some simple Italian flavours at La Camera for yourself. Shop MR2 Mid Level East End, Southgate, Southbank Victoria 3006. Phone 03 9699 3600. Open 7.30am to 10.30pm Monday to Thursday, 7.30am until late Friday, 8.30am until late Saturday and 8.30am to 10.00pm Sunday.