I’m sure many of you will understand when I say that there are some restaurants and eateries you save for ‘special occasions’; a romantic dinner for two, the celebration of a new job, when a long-serving friend comes to visit, or a birthday dinner with your nearest and dearest. If you’re anything like me, you save them because you don’t want to tarnish your enjoyment or memory of that very first visit, and you want others to experience that same satisfaction. You get me?
The arrival of my 30th birthday (I’m still accepting gifts if you are offering…) presented the perfect opportunity for me to head to one of Brisbane’s best kept secrets, Elio’s Osteria. Located in the Brisbane suburb of Carina heights, Elio’s is the place to go if you have a hunger for anything Italian. The restaurant is quaint, a small space where the tables spill out onto the sidewalk and the patrons are as enthusiastic about their meal as the staff, with everyone loudly conversing and indulging. There is a warmth that eminates from within (and given the promise of rain on this evening, that is a good thing), and it reminds me of my own Italian family get-togethers, where tables went the length of the lounge room just to fit us all in and plate upon plate of glorious home-cooked Italian food was spread.
I’ll be honest, my first exposure to Elio’s was some years ago, but Paul (our waiter, and not the owner; is that non-pc??) made such an impression and the food was so good, that it had long been on my mind to return. It was a delight to see his welcoming face on this return, and full of gusto we were shown to our table. Given the celebratory nature of the occasion, we ordered a bottle of the Pepperton Estate Brut Cuvee, a fruit-driven sparkling with a lovely crisp finish.
Salivating over the menu, Elio’s specialises in traditional Italian pizza, pasta and calzone-style garlic bread. Owner, Paul isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and took our order of an antipasto platter with a fine selection of Italian delicacies, and the garlic and cheese bread for entree. This was easily shared among our group of six, and was the perfect starter for the wonderful meals to follow.
Pizza lovers rejoice, Elio’s has an extensive menu of both original (think Hawaiian, Supreme, and Aussie) and specialty (the Italian, Seafood) pizzas to choose from. You will be hard-pressed to make a decision. On this occasion however, our mains consisted of Spaghetti Marinara, Vegetable Risotto, Tortellini Carbonara, Calzone, Gnocchi alla Tony and the Blue Cheese Gnocchi. What can I say? We definitely like our pasta! And the chef at Elio’s does not disappoint.
Fresh is best, and the quality (and quantity) of mussels, prawns and other sea creatures found in the marinara couldn’t have been fresher. The napolitana sauce had the right consistency, perfectly covering the seafood and the pasta without leaving a liquidy mess at the bottom of the plate. And as I would expect, the spaghetti was cooked al dente! The vegetable risotto was a surprise, with eggplant delicately cooked to compliment the sundried tomatoes and olives and lift the flavour of the mushrooms in the sauce. The tortellini, while perfectly cooked, was slightly overwhelmed by the creamy sauce. But the blue cheese gnocchi had the perfect balance of elements, creamy and flavoursome. The gnocchi all Tony is a devine creation with veal strips, eggplant and mushrooms. If you like your creamy sauce, have the alfredo, but for mine, it was always going to be napolitana.
If there was one disappointment to our mains, it would have to be the calzone. While there are no complaints about the authentic Italian flavours of the dish, the way in which is was prepared, or even the taste, the calzone simply did not compare to everything else being eaten at our table. It was the odd one out, and a brave choice for my guest who fought every urge to order pizza.
The dining experience would not have been complete without dolce e caffe (dessert and coffee). There was one Traditional Chocolate Mudcake on order, but I boldy ordered an indulgent sweet from off the menu – Cioccolata Calda (hot chocolate) with chilli. For anyone unfamiliar with the Italian hot chocolate, let me arouse your senses. It is like no other. Italian hot chocolate is a cup of thick, deliciousness with a pudding-like texture. At Elio’s the chocolate is served so thick that the only way to eat it (yes – that’s right eat) is with a spoon. There is a luxurious richness that comes from the chocolate and then, to give it a little kick, a small amount of chilli is added to the mix. It won’t burn your tastebuds, but it will warm your mouth and leave a lingering, tingling sensation.
Once again, I had an unforgettable experience at Elio’s. If you’ve not been, you should. And if you (unfortunately, on this occasion) don’t live close by, come for a visit and I’ll take you there. Any excuse…
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5
Elio’s Osteria details:
Address – 119 Winstanley Street, Carina Heights, QLD
Food – Traditional Italian
Drink – BYO and Licensed
Prices – Starters from $8.20, Pasta and Risotto from $18.90, Pizza from $18.50, Mains from $22.50 and Desserts from $7.50.
Elio’s Osteria is open Tuesday to Sunday from 5.30pm till late. See elios.com.au or call 07 3843 1333.