Whitewashed walls, lemon and olives trees, the striking pink flowers of bougainvilleas and views over azure waters to Sicily. That’s Salina. Well, that’s what the menu at Salina Restaurant in Belmont tells me about the island it’s named after.
It’s a pretty picture in my mind’s eye. When we step past the sliding glass doors on a drizzly night, I'm not expecting to see the blue waters of the Mediterranean, but what I am presented with is a lovely dining space: polished wooden floorboards, oyster-coloured walls and a myriad of local artwork adorning the walls. Certainly not what I was picturing after having driven past numerous times.
The further you walk into the building the more it reveals its secrets. There are actually multiple internal dining areas; outside are even more nooks and crannies. The different sections, while creating a lot of seating space, actually end up making the venue feel more intimate, while still being relaxed.
The menu is a mixed bag of Italian-influenced fare. It’s not purely Aeolian - it doesn’t claim to be - but it is missing the island’s famous capers in the offerings, which would have been a nice touch.
The menu has recently been changed, so we are trying a few new dishes that regulars may not have seen before, or at least for a while.
The seafood chowder is one of them. It’s a creamy, tomato-based concoction that will warm your cockles on a cold night. There are prawns, fish pieces, calamari, mussels and baby octopus swimming around in there, all cooked just right. Loaded with flavour and served with bread, it’s a great addition to the menu.
A deboned quail (except the wings and legs) can be requested as your entree or your main and either would be a smart choice. The petite bird’s body is cooked well – no dryness here. It sits on a bed of sweet nutty lentils with diced vegetables, and a rich sweet onion and bread stuffing. A bit of sage butter and a salty parmesan crisp breaks up the sweetness of the dish. A small water bowl is provided for the finger-lickin’ wings.
A few Italian (and Sicilian) drops feature on the drinks list, both beer and wine. There are even wines from Salina island including a nero d’avola – perfect to accompany our main courses.
All pasta dishes can come in entree and main sizes – I decide on the entree portion so I can fit in dessert – my eye is on something pretty hearty from the specials board. The entree size however is still huge – no one will ever leave this restaurant hungry. Out comes a hot bowl of linguine – I’m pretty sure it’s dried, not fresh, but certainly al dente – with olives, eggplant, chilli, pine nuts and a garlic crumb. The chilli packs a little bit of heat and the other ingredients work well together, however the tomato makes the sauce a bit watery.
Salina has long been a local favourite for its takeaway pizzas, so it would be remiss of me not to try one. It’s traditional – thin crust and selected toppings. The spicy Italian sausage with mild creamy goat’s cheese, anchovies and mushrooms is delicious and hot and easy to make disappear. Not greasy, not too cheesy. It’s good pizza.
Thanking my foresight to order the entree size, I’ve still got room to try the dessert special – an Italian bread and butter pudding with chocolate gelato and pouring cream. The bread is thick and custardy and has gentle undercurrent of orange. The chocolate gelato is creamy, but not too rich. Every mouthful is delicious – it really should be a permanent fixture on the menu it’s so yummy.
It’s been a lovely meal and while I don’t think gastronomically we’ve ventured to Sicily, we’ve been to Salina in Belmont. And that’s a place I’d be happy to go back to.
- What: Salina Restaurant
- Where: 626 Pacific Hwy, Belmont.
- Contact: 4945 3005; salina.com.au
- Hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 5pm.
- Owner: Robert Fonti, Deeanne Fonti and Karl Foxe
- Chef: Karl Foxe
- Drinks: Selection of beers and wines by glass and bottle. BYO wine only. $10 corkage per bottle.
- Vegetarian: Plenty – just ask.
- Wheelchair: Yes.
- Bottom line: Entrees are $11- $20; mains $1-$39; desserts $15-$17.
- Do try: The pizzas and leave room for a dessert.