Simplicity and elegance is what attracted us to Hawthorns Di Palmas. Devoid from the cheese factor that accompanies many high street Italian eateries, our initial shock that the Glenferrie Road restaurant was only a 20 or so seater was soon quashed when our waiter showed us to a further two dining areas; both startlingly quiet and desperately wanting a little Camille from the speakers.
Our waiter was new. I hope. He fumbled around oddly, offering us all the right things in all the wrong order and when we queried menu items his lack of knowledge forced the disappointing ‘I’ll have to ask the kitchen’ response. But his eagerness was noted and the attentiveness of the other staff suggested he was on his industry Ls. Not the category of service a Saturday night in Melbourne demands.
My partner ordered our entrees; deep-fried squid with aioli, Bruschetta, and olives. The olives were forgotten, the Bruschetta was nice enough but could’ve improved with a little balsamic reduction, and the squid, okay, but hardly satiating. Following our entrées were more drinks; my Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was a definite winner but didn’t compensate for the over-cooked pasta that accompanied our mains. My spanner crab with tomato sugo, coriander and not so Al Dente house-made spaghetti was lacking; the coriander nondescript, the crab bland, and the sugo far too sweet. My partners Wagyu Bolognese had a little more flavour but a lack of substance, something that could’ve been remedied with a few fresh herbs. In hindsight, however, my words are far more critical now than over dinner. With a creative menu and the right ingredients, aware of what’s needed and ambitious, Di Palma’s is full of potential; but in a city that’s abuzz with Tacquidero’s, Izakaya’s, and Kentucky diners, the Italians are in desperate need of a few more than competent Cucina’s to drive a renaissance.