Mushroom Mania @ Mi Va Il Gusto

It has been a long week, folks.

Long, tiring – I would even venture to say it’s been a little soul-destroying.

So while I knew that I had one last restaurant to review for Mushroom Mania month, on behalf of the Australian Mushroom Growers Association, I just couldn’t bear the thought of venturing out to the city after work so I decided to try my little local pizzeria for some comfort close to home. Now we’ve ordered wood-fired pizzas from here for years, so I thought it might be about time to step inside and see what else they had to offer.

Vermont isn’t exactly known for it’s share of fine dining eateries. If anything, there are plenty of little mom-and-pop operations sprinkled around, offering everything from excessively horrific fish and chips to incredible phở. While the wares on offer here certainly won’t win any Michelin stars for innovation, the great thing about them is that the food is simple and homely and quite often is close to some sort of home cookin’.

Mi Va Il Gusto is one of those places which is comfortable and good. Mind, I don’t say great, but there is something intimate and familiar about coming here. Run by a husband and wife team along with a small number of employees, the interior is quaint and cozy, and quite typical of a little Italian bistro out in the suburbs of Melbourne.

I thought that it would be a good idea to try this place, particularly after my abysmal experience at Pescare earlier this week. And for two restaurants in such close proximity to each other, the two couldn’t be set any further apart. Both are Italian restaurants set in the suburbs, however Pescare is incredibly large and spacious inside, with serene lighting and plush furnishings.

Meanwhile, Mi Va Il Gusto is the “cheaper” cousin; smaller with clean but worn out furniture. A friendly, family restaurant where you can take the little ones out for an easy meal. And where a little noise and bustle is just part of the atmosphere.

All in all, the perfect place for a worn body to take herself at the end of the week, who isn’t in search of anything fancy but just simple, unfussed fare which will satisfy stomach and restless soul.

I ordered a similar dish to the one ordered at Pescare, that’s to say the tortellini with mushroom sauce. At $15, this isn’t fancy or amazing, but it’s very moreish and warms the stomach. The cream & wine sauce is quite rich and the mushrooms cut thickly so that they still provide a texture and bite even once cooked.

To be honest, I highly doubt the tortellini was home-made and the filling used was a complete mystery as the texture was pasty and the flavour couldn’t be determined. However, it did well to carry the sauce, and the sauce wasn’t too much as to overwhelm the flavour of the mushrooms contained within. This is quite saying something, since the mushrooms were just your standard white button mushrooms which don’t have the strongest flavour in the mushroom world.

When I ordered this dish, the waitress asked me if I wanted to have chicken added to the sauce and while I opted for yes, the chef forgot to make this inclusion so that my dish was without. As it turns out, though, this was a blessing in disguise as the excess of mushrooms in this dish filled me completely and the added filler of chicken might have been too much for me to bear!

We also ordered the bruschetta to share and this was by far my favourite dish of the night. The bread was nothing spectacular, looking very much like a baguette from Coles, but the topping made it worthwhile. Just a standard combination of roma tomatoes, basil, red onion and olive oil, the flavours were brightened with what tasted like lemon juice and a liberal addition of parmesan.

The waitress advised that you could bruschetta topping on a home-made pizza base and while I’m glad that we didn’t go this option yesterday evening, it’s definitely something that I’ll be keeping in mind for the future, perhaps when the warmer weather finally comes.

After tossing up between the veal parmigiana and the penne Calabrese, my sister finally settled on the latter and was quite pleased with the dish. Unfortunately the salami was a bit over-generous and the saltiness from them leeched into the tomato sauce and left it salty enough to make her thirsty. Separate to this, neither of us could otherwise fault the dish as the pasta was perfectly cooked and it’s rustic simplicity of olives, capsicums and salami in a homemade Napoli sauce.

While this certainly wasn’t the best meal that either of us has ever had, it was good to know that our little local Italian bistro/restaurant could provide a decent meal when needed.

As this week and Mushroom Mania month winds to a close, you still have a little time to venture out and see what chefs around town are doing with the fabulous fungi. But don’t let the end of the event stop you either – though the mushroom may be small and humble, there’s always someone out there who’s doing something exciting with it!

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Comments

  1. Hi! I´m a swedish girl that just moved to Ballarat, Vic for a year. I´m a chef and an extreme foodie and I´ve followed your blog for about a year. (found it googling for a recipie for stuffed squid..:-))
    So I just wonder if you have any tips for me what to explore in Australian food. I´ve already fallen in love with pumpkin and all the great sasuages you have here. Have to say its just so cool not recognizing a single fish in the fish store. Any tips on good but not too expensive fish?
    I also wonder if you know any place in Melbourne that sells those sugar flowers for wedding cakes. The cake it self is no problem but I think doing the flowers might be pushing my luck just a bit too far..
    Thanks for making a great blog!

    • Hi Tussen – welcome to Australia! :) I think the question as to what “Australian” food constitutes is quite open considering how diverse the population is and how “young” we are in comparison to other countries :) As for fish, the only thing I can recommend is to go to the markets, though I’m not sure what you have available to you in Ballarat :/

      As for the fondant flowers, you can buy them at Cake Deco in the city – mention to Phillip (the owner) that you’re a Kitchen Wench reader and he’ll give you a 5% discount on your total :)

  2. Sometimes it’s nice just to chill out and have some cosy friendly food at a cosy friendly place, it may not be quite as fancy as the other restaurants, but it just hits the spot. After a lousy week don’t you just wish you could go and get dinner in your baggy flannie PJS, and no makeuup? Or is that just me? (blush)

    • I absolutely agree! In fact, I have to admit that I *have* come here to pick up their wood-fired pizzas before in my pajamas – don’t know if I would dine out while wearing them though :)

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