An "osteria" was originally a place serving wine and simple food. In fact, the oldest osteria in Italy, Osteria del Sole in Bologna, dates from 1465. For six months, not long ago, this was our local, and I kid you not, you actually have to bring your own food - so long as you spend at least on wine. Fortunately, at Osteria dei Sapori in Nedlands, which dates from around 2004, they do provide the food as well as the wine.
In proper osteria fashion, the menu is succinct, the food refreshingly unpretentious and the serves are Italian hearty - no artistically minimalist portions here, thank you.
There is a problem, though, which is that almost any of the dishes can become a firm favourite after a single experience. This means that you may be reluctant to try something else next time round - love at first bite, as it were. Take the melanzane alla parmigiana ($18) from the entree list, for example. Eggplant, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato sauce and basil sounds simple enough but the flavours are so rich, yet so perfectly balanced, that it was only on my fourth visit that I reluctantly opted for something else. On that occasion, it was the gamberi all'aglio ($22) - precisely cooked tiger prawns in a good olive oil with satisfyingly large slivers of garlic. A dining companion described her stuffed squid ($18) as "absolutely delicious - a fabulous balance between the fish, the nuts and the tomatoes" - and this lady is not noted for her hyperbole.
There are some stand-outs among the mains, too. Saltimbocca alla romana ($28) was as tender as a mother's goodnight kiss and the wine sauce was reduced to its proper consistency. Grilled lamb chops ($31) were seriously seared on the outside but coyly blushing on the inside. A special of slow oven-roasted pork ($34) was tender and redolent of fresh rosemary and sage but, if anything, was a tad overcooked and could have done with a moisturising sauce of some sort. The accompanying caponata was excellent, with each ingredient holding its individual integrity but combining into a beautifully integrated whole.
Desserts ($9) include a very serviceable panna cotta, beautifully constructed profiteroles, an excellent almond and chocolate cake and, of course, tiramisu. There are probably as many recipes for tiramisu as Italians making them, each preparing it to their own tastes and tradition. My dining companion particularly liked the Osteria version but I prefer mine a little less firm with a lot more liqueur - ognuno ha il suo gusto!
The wine list is serviceable, and while the reds in the Italian selection tick quite a few boxes, there is no chianti and there are only five whites - a soave or an IGT chardonnay wouldn't hurt, nor would a few more offerings by the glass. Service is provided with gay abandon, particularly if you are celebrating an occasion, when Franco, the maitre d', will no doubt cut you a caper.
Osteria dei Sapori
Address 151 Broadway, Nedlands
Phone 9386 4243
Open Tues-Fri: lunch 12pm-3pm; Tues-Sat: dinner 6pm-10pm
The buzz The sort of restaurant that can easily become a habit - good food, good wine, in Perth terms fairly good prices, and flamboyant service.14.5/20