La Scala on Jersey has just embarked on a new chapter of their journey with their executive chef Massimo Mele, who regularly guests on the TV show Ready, Steady, Cook. Born in Tasmania and raised in Naples, Massimo brings to life his ethos of Tutti A Tavola – ‘everyone to the table’ by encouraging the true Italian sharing style of dining. So, of course, the dishes he’s crafted showcase childhood influences from Italy, which Massimo tweaks into his own modern take on the classics. With the new life comes a new rustic look re-designed with timber flooring for a casual atmosphere.
I opted for a pre-dinner mocktail at the bar, which were served with aesthetically adorable striped straws and tasted of fresh strawberries in Spring. Their new cocktail list focuses on Italian spirits and sparkling wines with sweet and fruity flairs. We were also offered a white 2013 Calabria, Pinot Bianco, Griffit, NSW and red 2010 Calabria, Aglianico, Griffit, NSW to match our dishes throughout the night.
The true feasting and sharing style of Italian dining began with platters of antipasti that we hungrily dug into. Mamma Maria’s pickled carrots are exactly as the name implies – a pickled carrots recipe passed down from Massimo’s Mamma. The goat’s curd added creaminess and balanced the sour pickling flavour, brought out by dashes of oregano and mint.
The Smashed zucchini & garlic dip with fried bread were created one day when Chef Massimo saw a pot of zucchini, another pot of garlic, and literally decided to just smash them together! The fried bread was the perfect addictive complement to the dip and gave a resounding crunch to every bite. I may have eaten a little too much of this!
The Grilled pizza “street food” was filled with traditional ingredients of smoked ham, ricotta, parmesan, and tomato. Massimo told us stories of going back to Italy and seeing iconic street-carts selling pizza with chargrilled dough wrapped around the filling to make it easier to eat while you walk! The result is a dish with a pide-esque look with characteristic Italian pizza flavours.
The Butterflied king prawns were cooked just right, retaining the sweet sea flavours of the prawns with simple additions of cheese, oregano, chilli, and lemon to maintain the simple palate. I would have loved some more chilli to give it some extra kick!
The first main of Lumaconi with Spencer Gulf prawns were full of robust textures and flavours highlighted with fresh tomato, garlic, chilli and basil. My favourite element of this dish were the lumaconi pasta, cooked perfectly al dente and coated with just enough flavours for big, tasteful bites. The occasional crunchy bread crumbs gave an exciting texture that left me wanting them all over the dish! This was my definite favourite of the night.
Interspersed between the mains were three sides, beginning with piping hot Crispy Italian potatoes served with rosemary and garlic.
The sides continued with a salad of Witlof, radicchio, pickled beetroot, candied walnuts, sour cherries, goats curd that cut through the hearty food with a burst of bitter freshness. To be honest though, the sweet tooth in me wanted more candied walnuts and perhaps goats curd to balance the other bitter-sour elements of the dish.
The final side dish was Polenta chips with parmesan and truffle aioli, which were fried just right for hot, thin, and crispy outsides and soft, polenta-ful insides. I’m all for flavour kicks, so my tastebuds were craving for more mounds of parmesan, or a heavier truffle essence, to bring the chips to a higher dimension.
The mains followed with the Pesce del Giorno sitting lightly on fresh tomatoes, porcini sauce, and truffle potato puree.
The final main was Slow cooked Suffolk lamb shoulder chops with caramelised radicchio and salsa verde. Let me repeat. Slow cooked. When this phrase is paired with any kind of meat, my eyes light up. For when it is cooked right, like Massimo’s lamb, the result is gorgeously tender pieces of meat intertwined with just enough silky fat for that soft, mellifluous texture. Some extra boosts of flavour would have made this my hero dish.
We ended the meal with Massimo’s take on the Tiramisu “modo mio” – which literally translates to Tiramisu “my way”. They come served in glass cups with layers of soft cream, cocoa, and liqueur. It was visually exciting to dig into all the layers, as the flavours change from sweet on top, to mocha in the middle, and bitter liqueur at the end.
Massimo with his Mamma
Massimo Mele has breathed some new Italian life into La Scala on Jersey, and has made it a casual place for a night out with the traditional simple, fresh flavours.
La Scala on Jersey
Corner of Jersey Road and Melrose Lane
(above the Light Brigade Hotel)
Phone: (02) 9357 0815
Open: Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of La Scala on Jersey