iLPasto Mount Hawthorn

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Red flocked wallpaper, white linen napery, chocolate brown leather bench seats and gilded mirrors contribute to  iLPasto’s sleek, sophisticated Italian feel. Add wait staff attired in white shirts with black vests and ties to the recipe and you could imagine you were in some chichi restaurant anywhere in the world. With all this subdued elegance, you’d expect prices to match, but prices are reasonable enough for you to enjoy a two course meal from as low as $35.

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Each of us chose the pasta or gnocchi options; comfort food on these cold winter nights. The penne with fresh basil, tomatoes, peas, bocconcini and asparagus was one of the daily specials and was light and flavoursome, letting the fresh ingredients and olive oil dressing speak for themselves.

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As soon as I spotted duck on the menu, my mind was made up; gnocchi with duck and mushrooms ($28) for me. The duck had been slow cooked and was melt-in-your-mouth tender, while the little gnocchi pillows were gloriously soft. The Swiss brown mushrooms added depth, and the richness of the dish was largely thanks to the lush natural juices of the duck and the mushrooms.

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RC’s seafood risotto was creamy and starchy and made with a well flavoured stock. Replete with bite-size pieces of fresh seafood, he was a happy man.

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Dessert or not? I settled for an affogato at $6, but the others selected more exotic options. RC’s torta di ricotta ($12) was described as a cheesecake on the menu but it wasn’t cheesecake in the traditional sense. A biscuit base layered with ricotta and pieces of candied orange, and topped with a mix of pistachios and orange zest, it was an unusual but enjoyable treat.

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Two of my pals chose the popular vanilla, orange, saffron creme brûlée at $12. It was served with a biscuit on the side which was superfluous for such a rich dessert. The creme was zhooshed up a notch by the orange flavouring, and the brûlée topping was perfectly crackly and caramelised. Of course I sampled both of the desserts and both were delicious, but my preference was with the creme brûlée. IlPasto also has a daily winter baked pudding on offer; it featured pears on the night we visited.

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In many ways this Italian eatery feels like an up-market establishment minus the up-market price tag. We experienced friendly and attentive service, and the food was served within 20 minutes of placing orders. On Sundays iLPasto features a $14 special Sicilian pasta menu with a limited choice of meat or vegetarian pasta dishes. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays main course dishes are available for $25, reflecting different regions of Italy. With free street parking outside and the option to BYO wine, it’s an affordable and pleasant dining experience.

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