As much as Alissa and I love degustation dining, such meals are often the most draining of all when it comes to writing about them - and its all the worse when there are multiple back to back. Such was the case in August this year; with the month spent writing about epic degustations in Sydney at Cafe Paci and Sepia as well as Nomad's Shared 9-course menu, I just had no energy left in me to write about any of the meals we'd had in Perth over that month, and when September came around I mainly just wanted to write about, well, burgers. A Sauma post is still on the back-burner from then, and an incredible Il Capo meal at Lalla Rookh accompanied by a marvellous bottle of Barolo will sadly go undocumented as we were so busy over the month that we forgot to take down notes!
One place we visited during that time was No Mafia in Northbridge, and for that meal we had made extensive enough notes to be able to come back to months afterwards. A spur of the moment decision driven by the better than expected tax return we would be getting, Alissa and I drove into the city to finally dine at this pasta-free Southern Italian restaurant we'd been wanting to try for months.
Located in the same building that houses Arcade 189 on William St, No Mafia has been called one of the narrowest restaurants in Perth. It is narrow alright, but I think it illustrative that nobody commented about this when the space was home to a Jus Burgers not that long ago. The surprise comes more from the serious if casual sit-down nature of the food and the fact that someone has found a way to make a space so wholly not fit for the purpose somehow work. Its a bit cosy but it never felt crowded in, and there is something very charming and effective about this open kitchen and bar.
As is common in many restaurants of Perth's new guard, the wine list was highly apposite, consisting of a characterful mix of Italian Wines with a good description of their flavours for those unfamiliar with the varietals, as well as a solid selection of Australian options. Everything selection was available by the glass, and with prices between $6-$14 we thought the list to be very fair and reasonable. We really liked the Cabernet Sauvignon-Carignan-Syrah blend pictured above, and also had a particularly funky Sicilian wine that we were told is open fermented in Wheelbarrows! As well as wine, No Mafia are definitely bringing back Aperitivi and Digestivi, with an excellent selection of Amari available straight or in cocktails.
To start, we ordered Proscuitto and Sardines with Bread in Common Bread. As I've noted before, these kind of dishes are hard to judge as they are basically a sourcing job, however everything served was quality. Having dined at Bread in Common a few times, Alissa and I knew what to expect, and were greeted with nice crusty bread with a soft, pillowy interior. The Proscuitto was nice, soft and flavoursome, and the Young Pickled Anchovies were particularly impressive, having a softer texture that most Anchovies and milder, more refined flavour.
A serve of Potato Croquettes followed. Being of Dutch descent and having grown up with them, Alissa is something of a Croquette connoisseur and she absolutely loved these. The Croquettes were of a good size and thickness, with a perfectly crunchy exterior, and a really smooth and creamy interior. It didn't taste overly oily and was not sloppy on the inside, instead having a good firmness that kept its shape very well. Having the Croquettes served atop a deliciously garlic-heavy Pesto Sauce alongside daubs of Aioli really made this a complete and very tasty dish. Overall, Alissa and I felt the Baccala and Potato Croquettes at La Sosta were possibly tastier, but that the craftsmanship on display here was more impressive.
Squid Tubes with Risotto, Capsicum-Chilli Paste was an absolutely spot on dish. The Squid were charred for that smoky and slightly bitter flavour, with the Tubes themselves being particularly succulent. The Risotto filling was quite creamy, and the Capsicum Sauce struck a perfect balance between sweetness and saltiness, with a slight heat and a roasty savouriness. With peas on top to add colour and additional flavour, this was a cracker dish I would definitely order again.
Out other main dish was Pork Loin, Pistachio Paste, Pink Peppercorns. Although the picture does betray the fact the Pork was probably not rested enough, it was well cooked, especially considering how definitely non-Modernist the grill/stove/fryer/over setup of the kitchen is, and the fact one guy was doing all the cooking. The exterior had a nice char while still having a slightly pink interior. The only issue? It could really have done with a low level brining, as the saltiness on the outside didn't seem to permeate the meat as thoroughly as one would have hoped. Finishing it off, the Pistachio Paste was incredibly buttery and decadent, while the citric pop of the Red Peppercorns provided a nice lift. Had it been brined, this could have possibly been the best dish, but as it stands it was still very good.
With Tiramisu all sold out, Alissa and I decided to go for a Cannoli each. The way they prepared the Cannoli was ingenius - tubes seemed to have been par-baked, and then finished off in the deep fryer just before service, resulting in a nice, crispy pastry with a nice crack to it when hit with a spoon. Piped with Orange Mascarpone and served with Pistachio Crumb and a sweet Caramel Sauce, this was a wonderfully cheffy take on Cannoli that was a cut above the often soggy, pre-made varieties available at even good bakeries.
The Verdict: Excellent
There is so much to like about No Mafia - it's a place that is at once very fun and disarmingly casual, and yet there is a seriousness and attention to detail on display that shows they are serious contenders in the increasingly busy New Northbridge scene. We enjoyed all the dishes we ordered, and the small but well considered wine list shows even casual restaurants can make an interesting and highly suitable list if they put in the effort. For me, its probably a bit of a step below our Italian favourites like La Sosta and La Scarpetta, but they do what they do with great aplomb. With excellent service and a cool open kitchen that makes you feel like your over for dinner at a very cheffy friend's home, No Mafia is definitely worth checking out.