A small, shining spot of light and life right next to Meadowbank station at night, Anema e Core is the definition of great food in unlikely places. It’s a commendable feat to be able to transport your diners somewhere other than a quiet, deserted street, surrounded by swathes of residential apartments and bushland and lit from one side only by the fluorescent lights of a minor train station, and Anema e Core managed to do that with warmth and hospitality, with a side of lively Italian music to boot.
You can really see the care and energy that has been put into Anema e Core when you step into its main storefront, which is dominated by an open kitchen and pizza oven. The overall impression is that of cheery eclecticism and warmth, from the giant Nutella jars stacked on its doorframe to the ‘vintage’ peeling paint on the walls (I’m yet to figure out if that was intentional).
There are restaurants that feel ‘lived in’, as though the owners have simply thrown open the door to their own kitchen for you, and Anema e Core definitely embodies that quality. Though it only opened in February 2014, it feels like this restaurant could easily have been here for generations, slowly accumulating trinkets sourced from Naples and international currency from customers who have come and gone, all stapled to the shelf. And, of course, there’s a pizza clock.
The actual bulk of dining happens alfresco, though evening diners are sat inside a marquee with an outdoors space heater so it’s actually quite warm. Unfortunately, the place isn’t really designed for photography.
After being welcomed by Christian and Alice, our waitress, we were treated to a smaller-portioned combination of the Tagliere Anema E Core ($50) antipasto with salumi and cheese, and Deep Fried Calamari and Prawns ($22). The fried seafood was encased in a light, non-oily batter that was almost tempura-like that worked so well with the tartare sauce. It’s a good thing we were only given a small cone, or else I would have spent my stomach capacity on this dish alone.
All the meats and cheeses in the Tagliere Anema E Core antipasto tasted extremely fresh – the buratta cheese light and creamy, the salami soft, with a kick of pepper and spice, and salty goat cheese enhanced by the pine nut dotted over it. All the antipasto went very well with the small pieces of freshly warm, finger-sized toast pieces that were provided.
The prosciutto was a standout for me – it was incredibly soft, slightly sweet and smoky, and packed with flavour. The Tastum cheese is also a must-try. Created from a mix from cow, goat and sheep’s cheese and slightly sweet due to its incorporation of Barolo wine, it has an incredibly strong, striking flavour that is sure to be memorable. Even with a party of four, I was already feeling pretty well satiated by the end of this – and we had only finished the antipasto!
Mussels in Tomato Sauce ($28) followed, featuring a light tomato broth that paired perfectly with the well-buttered and salted toast to showcase the freshness of the mussel. The Crème of Leek and Potato Soup ($25) was next, a dish that was welcome on a cold winter night. Well seasoned and fragrant, the thick soup paired well with the prawns and had a touch of sweetness from the balsamic vinegar.
Service from Alice and the other waiters was friendly and efficient; I think we had a change of plates after nearly every course, accompanied by repeated exclamations of ‘grazie, grazie!’ The presence of Italian diners at an Italian restaurant is always a good sign, and we did hear a couple of tables throughout the night.
If we thought the soup was fragrant, the concentrated fragrance of enticing truffle that greeted us from the Mushroom Truffle Pasta ($28) was even better. The homemade pasta was cooked al dente and the Parmigiano-based white sauce coated the pasta with scrumptious mushroom flavours and generous slices of actual mushroom, but was light enough to not overwhelm. The cute little cheese bowl the pasta was served it also added some textural contrast, though more for show than taste. This was definitely one of the standout dishes for me.
True to its name, the Blu Risotto Anema E Core ($38) is actually blue, and a bright, vivid blue at that, all coloured entirely naturally via secret recipe, according to Alice. There is a variety of seafood on offer, including pieces of calamari mixed with the risotto and the dish features a salty, light, seawater-like flavour throughout, which enhances the impression the seafood had been freshly plucked from the ocean. We were thoroughly fooled by the pieces of kelp-like sheets, which is actually dried zucchini cream – an ingenious way to add some extra dimensions of flavour to the dish.
And though our stomachs were full to bursting by that point, we simply had to try Anema e Core’s famous pizza, made with Napolitan techniques. I haven’t been to Italy yet, but one of my better-travelled dining companions tells me that, unlike the Dominoes and Pizza Hut we’re used to, Naples style pizza toppings often slide off the pizza. I can only assume, judging by our first attempt to lift a slice off Christian’s Fantasy ($25), Anema e Core’s pizza was enthusiastic about proving its authenticity. The pizza dough is hand-made and one bite of the soft, black-spotted base, slightly reminiscent of Turkish bread in appearance, proves the difference. The simplicity of the toppings – blobs of mozzarella, basil leaves and tomato sauce – creates a light and natural pizza, though this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Anema e Core’s pizza offerings, which include a metre-long option. Criniti’s famous pizza has some stiff competition up north – give Anema e Core’s pizza a try and you may not go back.
Our second dessert stomachs came into play as four of us dug into the Tiramisu ($8), and promptly demolished it in about two minutes. Anema e Core’s tiramisu is everything a great tiramisu should be: not too sweet, rich with coffee flavours and balanced in its marscapone cream distribution and alcohol. Coffee beans scattered over the top added a textural crunch and some bitterness.
If there’s one thing Anema e Core needs, it’s larger tables. Not simply because this is the food and atmosphere designed to be enjoyed in large quantities while catching up with a group of friends, but also because, based on the quality of its food, this restaurant deserves twice as many tables as it currently has. Get in, before the lines get too long.
Anema e Core
62 Constitution Road, West Ryde, Sydney, NSW
Phone: (02) 9809 5555
Web: Anema e Core
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Anema e Core.