Slice of Perth: Every neighbourhood needs a place like this
There’s a little Italian wine bar in Mt Hawthorn that is full of understated charm. La Madonna Nera could be easily missed – but walk in and they’ll make you feel like part of the family.
A communal table is filled with diners stopping in for a couple of drinks and some antipasto, couples sit together sipping wine by candlelight and there’s a warming buzz about the place that makes you want to set up camp for the night.
While the menu changes very regularly, you can be assured of a couple of well made pasta dishes, a decent selection of share plates and antipasto and of course dolce. Indigenous ingredients like lemon myrtle and wattleseed make appearances in dishes that cleverly blend the old and new world.
Take the crudo ($25) for instance – made with finely diced kangaroo, the flavour raw is much more subtle than when it’s cooked. Mixed with sweet onion marmellata, anchovies and zingy capers, the balance of flavours was “perfetto”. On the side, spicy n’duja gave a little kick. This was hands down, the dish of the night.
With only a couple of pastas on offer, it’s hard to choose… so go both. Tonnarelli with lamb and pepper ragu ($26) has spaghetti bolognese vibes but oh so much better. The hearty ragu clings to the thick strands of pasta cooked with plenty of bite. Similarly, the casonei ($27) stuffed with sweet corn and goats cheese is served in a rich golden butter broth that will have you licking your lips. A few fried sage leaves and wattleseed gives it a taste that is reminiscent of walking through the Australian bush.
A salad ($17) of classic radicchio, romanesco and golden beets was lightly anointed with a walnut dressing and a sprinkling of blanched almonds and walnuts. It was full of earthiness with the sweetness of the beets toning down the bitterness of the radicchio.
To finish the semifreddo is worth an order. A frozen slab of nougat loaded with pistachios and topped with a tart berry coulis is a good one to share. Throw in an espresso made in a stove-top percolator and you’ve got yourself the perfect ending to meal.
With the exception of a handful of local small producers, the wine list is mainly filled with Italian labels. It can be a little overwhelming if you’re used to seeing varieties like merlot and sauvignon blanc… but this is where the waitstaff come in handy. They know their stuff, so ask them for a recommendation. You won’t be disappointed.
And speaking of the service – it’s exceptional. They make you feel at home but there’s still a bit of a fine dining edge.
Whether it’s for an apperitivo to round out a busy week or an intimate dinner with friends or a special someone – La Madonna Nera is just the place.
La Madonna Nera
1/155 Scarborough Beach Rd, Mount Hawthorn
Listen to Liz Sheehan’s full review with Oliver Peterson: