Published on March 4th, 2015 | by Ann Rickard0
Italian Marina – Tewantin
I remember that smell well.
Pungent garlic mingled with heady rosemary and the yeasty small of freshly baked dough.
I first experienced it in 1967 backpacking in Italy where the delicious smells of pizzas baking in ovens all over the country wafted through the streets and alleyways putting the taste buds on constant alert.
And there was that exact smell again last week – this time not in the boulevards of Rome, not even in the back streets of Naples, but in Tewantin.
Italian Marina at the Noosa Marina announces itself as you as you arrive in the carpark. The smell of Italy is unmistakable.
Owner Michelangelo Cecconi (yes, he’s heard all the Sistine ceiling jokes) presents an Italian menu that is the real deal.
How could his pizzas not be exactly like those all over Italy when they are cooked in a three tonne wood-fired oven made in Naples?
The monster oven takes centre stage from the al fresco decks of the restaurant overlooking the marina.
It’s a big beauty with its wood fire going and the pizzas being slotted in at a steady rate for the crowds out on the decks.
When our pizza arrived, there was that authentic thin crust with the just-baked yeasty smell so time-honoured, for a moment we forgot the Tewantin location and imagined ourselves in a little trattoria tucked in a back alley in Pisa.
Italian Marina has been a hit since it opened late last year. Michelangelo had long wanted the position on the decks of the marina. He knew an authentic Italian restaurant with fair prices and food you would eat in his home country would please us.
He keeps things simple, with an antipasti section, a primi (first course, usually pasta), a secondi (mains), and then dolce (dessert).
The antipasti offerings are all $13 each so you know where you stand before you choose: fritto misto, calamari, a cured meat and pickle board – every antipasto is designed to awaken your taste buds. A plate of carpaccio appealed to us: wafer thin meat with a panzanella salad rich with anchovy paste, fried capers with a cooling touch of cumbers topped with bread crumbles.
Then, with appetite piqued and because we were feeling so Italian and wanted to linger, we indulged. Big time.
Some fat polenta chips, crunchy and hot, soft on the inside, to dip into rich gorgonzola cream. Mama Mia.
A pizza next, it had to be. They are king here.
We could have gone for tradition, they were all there: four cheese; prosciutto and rocket; Napoletan, potato and rosemary; mozzarella and cherry tomatoes (not a tandoori chicken or roast lamb topping in sight) – but we headed for the special pizza of the night. Four different toppings including fresh prosciutto, plenty of olives and artichokes. It went down in a flash.
Chef Davide Benadi comes from Modena and was very proud to present the next course: an oven baked rolled pasta filled with ham and fontina cheese. Rich and creamy with a béchamel, it was a thing of beauty and you must have it when you visit even though the prawn gnocchi with fight for your attention and the pumpkin and ricotta risotto will call to you and you may give in to the tageltelli with lamb ragu and goat cheese.
All pasta dishes are $24, showing again Michelangelo’s determination to keep things simple and affordable.
All secondi (main course) dishes are $32, and if you are greedy like us, then the pork hock, slowly braised in red wine until it falls away like melting snow, will satisfy an entire gang of you. It’s huge.
There is chicken cacciatore, a fish soup, and a fish of the day on the main list, and that’s it. Simple, well executed, satisfying.
We were embarrassed by our gluttony and didn’t make dessert despite a very tempting chocolate tart with limoncello sorbet making an appearance at another table, and the tiramisu looking as traditional as everything else.
Food friendly Italian wines (an excellent pinot grigio) meld well with Australian wines on the good list, and what would an Italian menu be without a finishing flourish of grappa.
Excellent Italian eating mixed with stunning Noosa views. It doesn’t get much better.