Ciao Mamma – The Overview…
Food: Polenta Chips, Fresh Bread, Lamb Ragu, Gluten-free gnocchi with napoli sauce, Almond and Coconut Cake
It’s amazing how relaxing Ciao Mamma is, given it’s close proximity to Sydney Road. They manage to give the cafe an authentic Italian feel with their rustic wood and open kitchen and we loved the lively pops of red too. You definitely can’t miss this cafe when driving past. The weather when we visited was perfect and with the front windows wide open it’s pleasant and airy. For larger groups there are several big tables – inside and out – that can accommodate them as well as plenty of smaller, more intimate tables. Honestly it’s an ideal first date restaurant, low key and nice without being too fancy or intimate.
The menu is structured so you choose your own pasta (including several gluten free varieties), add a sauce and then add any extras you want. There’s also starters, salads and desserts to share. We started with the fresh bread and polenta chips . The very cute polenta chips have a great crisp and are well seasoned with salt and Italian herbs. The creamy capsicum dip is a nice touch, still allowing the polenta to shine but adding some interest to an otherwise simple dish.
I opted for the gluten free gnocchi in a simple napoli sauce, adding meat to this too. I was warned the gnocchi would be a little different as it was gluten free – I thought this was nice as I’m sure many people may not realise. While it was a little denser than some gnocchi – which is common with gluten free options – it wasn’t noticeably different from what you’d expect when you order gnocchi and still had a nice lightness to it. It’s definitely something I’d be happy to order again and is the best gluten free gnocchi/pasta I’ve tried. The simple sauce really complemented it well, and my only improvement would have been for the meat to have been left a little larger. The pieces were cut quite small so it was unnoticeable at times. I would have preferred larger slices, but having said that, I all but licked my bowl clean with this dish (a feat that doesn’t happen often).
The lamb ragu was a filling, generous serve of pasta. The bowl was almost overflowing with flat Tagliatelle ribbons and then topped with two large pieces of slow braised lamb. While this would have overwhelmed me as a lunch time option, Lee hastily ploughed his way through it, loving the light home-made pasta and the richness of the herbs throughout the sauce. He added extra cheese on his – which IMO he really didn’t need, but it’s great that there are so many options to make each dish your own.
We were both feeling pretty full after this, but managed to share a cheeky piece of the almond and coconut cake for dessert. It was a nice moist cake, and the coconut really balanced well against the rich flavours in our main dishes. An ideal way to end your meal if you’re just fancying a bit of a sugar hit, but nothing too overwhelming.
Address: 3 Union Street, Brunswick
Tue 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Wed 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Thu 12pm to 3pm and 5:30pm to 10pm
Fri 12pm to 3pm and 5:30pm to 10pm
Sat 12pm to 3pm and 5:30pm to 10pm
Sun 12pm to 3pm and 5:30pm to 9:30pm
Parking: There’s plenty of parking on Union Street itself. We got a spot without any trouble. While it might be a little trickier mid-week, you still should manage to find somewhere just a short walk away.
Getting here on PT: It’s a quick walk from both Jewell Station and the 19 Tram (alight at Barkly Square).
Disclaimer: We dined as guests of Ciao Mamma, Brunswick. Reviews are honest and based on our own personal experiences. We cannot guarantee things at a restaurant won’t change including, but not limited to, menu items and opening hours, so please confirm any details with the venue before visiting.