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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sarti Restaurant

6 Russel Place

E tempo de carnivale! E festivale della commedia del'arte! Primo baby. (Who knew my year ten drama classes and grade six Italian would still come in handy?)

Italian and comedy? Where's this theme going?

Melbourne's Comedy Festival may be missing Scarramouche - but the zanies are out to play; Arj Barker having rude things done to his face by a papaya (you'll have to see him about that), Mick Molloy talking about his sex life (don't picture it - this is a food blog), and hundreds more artisans plying their craft in town right now (you'd really better catch a show).

So you make tracks like lightning down to the Town Hall for a laugh. And then it hits you. It's night, you're out, and you need to eat! (there's an Italian segue set-up going on here somewhere, I can feel it...) But where can you eat nearby? Everything's booked. It's crazy! Ramrod backed maitre d's turned us away from door after door. I felt like a second class citizen, let me tell you. Perhaps it's my new cologne 'Eau de Cow Dung'?

We were finally greeted with open arms, however, at Sarti; tucked as usual down a smelly alley, but conveniently only a block and a half from the centre of all things humourous at this time of year (finally, we got there - Italian joint is it?).

It IS an Italian restaurant (well done) without the check table cloths, not your hackneyed pizza joint but a more warm and modern trattoria. The decor's stripped back, black, timber, white; friendly and modern. We sat outside on their "rooftop" terrace - looking up at skyscraper walls - and it's laid back and groovy. The staff are good looking and knew the menu by heart - both good signs.

The menu? Excellent and simple. We had small pork and fennel sausages with a white polenta marsala sauce (which reminded me curiously of doughnuts) and calamari for entree. I had a fantastic mud crab and prawn spaghetti, my companions downing other specialities including crispy skinned fish and a berlotti beans and pancetta pasta.

The downsides? Going before a show means you're sitting there with a ticking stop watch in your head. It felt a bit rushed, so I would have liked to do a three or four hour session there; may be a late lunch that goes all afternoon? Oh, and the water prices! You know you're on the wrong side of Lent when you start ordering sparkling mineral water with your dinner. Qu'el horreur when the bill came! Still, if I was drinking wine, it'd seem cheap and the sting would have been taken off by the warm glow of booze. Quick! A poem:

Ah, booze!
One day I'll sup
There at your cup.
One day.
Ah, booze!

Obsessing? Moi?

So, all in all? Hot staff, nice atmos, good menu, prices a little on the high side but bearable. I give it six muscular tentacles out of eight! Now make me laugh, damn you!!