Cannoli Siciliani, zeppole and a whole lot more at Bar Idda

After a long week at work, my husband Mark suggested we go out for dinner on Friday night. He suggested Bar Idda, a Sicilian restaurant only a few kilometers from home in East Brunswick. I was very keen to try it as we will be traveling to Sicily in September and one of the things that excites me most about visiting southern Italy is the food. The first thing that struck me when I entered the restarant were the old fashioned lacy curtains in the window and the tiny tv tucked up high in one corner, silently playing episodes of my favorite Italian TV show, Ispettore Montalbano. We sat down at a bar seat, looking out onto Lygon Street feeling very comfortable in the simple uncluttered room.

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Sicily is close to Malta, which is where Mark’s father is from. He looked right at home nursing a Sicilian Spritzer (Vermouth with Rosso Antico and a splash of soda water) listening to italian singer Massimo Ranieri singing Rose Rosse, a song released in the 70s on the stereo.

The menu reflected traditional Sicilian fare with a bit of a twist. There were lots of sweet elements in the savoury dishes, which makes complete sense thinking of where Sicily is located in the Mediterranean Sea and its history of being invaded by both the Moors and the Normans.

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As a first course we shared an arancino, which literally means “little orange” (as that is what it looks like). It is a ball of risotto, which is fried then baked and it was filled with pork and beef ragu, mozzarella cheese and peas. We also shared a serve of incredible little fried balls called zeppole, a savoury version of frittole. Bar Idda makes them with potatoes, sultanas, parsley and anchovies and a lemon yoghurt mayonnaise (scalmoriglio) drizzled on top. They were seriously good and I could have eaten a dozen of them! I will definitely try to recreate these at home one day.

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There were five different main courses including duck with couscous and cavolo nero, chicken cotolette, pasta with ragu, baked baby snapper on a bed of mashed broad beans (maccu) topped with shaved fennel and porchetta (pork belly). We shared the duck and the fish however the lighting was poor so my photos are dark and too grainy to post. The salads blended the sweet and savory elements perfectly – we shared the roast sweet potatoes with chilli, pomegranate and mint and a wonderful cold caponata. The caponata mixed cooked and raw elements as well as sweet and savory – caramelised cooked pear, cooked carrots and celery with fresh grated apples, walnuts, capers and dates scattered through. It worked rather well.

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To finish off this rather wonderful Sicilian meal, we had tiny cannoli served with a glass of golden grappa. The cannolo was to die for – the cocoa pastry shell was filled with a ricotta cream with the ends dipped in crushed green pistachios and it was served on a paper doily, just like they do in cafes in Italy.

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I love the simplicity of Bar Idda, including the mismatched plates, embroidered tablecloths covered in protective plastic and the non-pretentious menu. Apparently the owners, Alfredo and Lisa La Spina, visit Sicily a couple of times a year and even take tour groups there on a ‘culinary journey’ so I imagine the food reflects what they see on their trips. I can’t wait to visit Bar Idda again and get a taste of the delightful food that my September trip to the east coast of Sicily will bring.

Bar Idda
132 Lygon St
East Brunswick 3057

14 Comments

  • I adore Bar Idda and hope you have the most wonderful trip in September. I can’t wait to read all about it.

  • sharon w says:

    thank you for this post Paola , we will have to go to Bar Idda on our next trip to Melbourne and I also cant wait to hear about Sicily .

  • ambradambra says:

    Sounds great. A few of my Sydney-based Italian friends rave about this place. And any place that puts their cannoli on paper doilies wins my vote!

  • Mrs Mulberry says:

    What a fun (and delicious) looking bar – better add this one to my Melbs to do list….I’m envious of your upcoming trip to Sicily. I can’t wait to get there one day soon!!

    • I am so excited about the trip – less so about the conference in Istanbul that I am scheduled to go to before flying to Sicily. I hope the unrest in Turkey has died down before then or I might have to skip the conference and head to the Greek Islands for a week!

  • chunberry says:

    Thank you for this recommendation. I spent much of February in Sicily and have been looking for a local (simple) Sicilian restaurant since I returned. There is a small cafe style place in Moonee Ponds that is ok for lunch or coffee but I wanted something for dinner.
    I’ve just found your blog while looking for a recipe for silverbeet and potato. (thankyou)
    I’ve spent all afternoon reading all you entries. I can’t believe how similar our backgrounds are:)
    Oh, and by the way, you will absolutely love!!!!! Sicily. I have some great recommendations for accommodation, and while you are there, you must do the Montalbano trail.

    • One of the things I love most about posting on my blog is comments I receive such as yours – makes it all worthwhile. I am so looking forwards to Sicily! We already have accommodation booked through Airbnb (Siracusa and Catania) but would welcome ideas on the must sees that are on the east coast, within driving distance. So you went to the real “Montalbano” town – wow!! I can’t wait!

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