The food scene in Sydney’s west doesn’t get a lot of credit, although there are plenty of people – locals and experts alike – trying to change that. You’ve probably read about the first-rate dining experiences Parramatta has to offer, or the number of big names moving into town.
But what do you know about Smithfield’s food offerings? Heck, what do you know about Smithfield?
Admittedly, I knew very little as I turned off Smithfield Road and onto The Horsley Drive, wondering why anyone would throw a definite article in ahead of a street name. As I searched for a car park, fluorescent signs pointed out kebab shops, Mexican food and the local tavern, but I couldn’t quite spot what I was after. Once on foot, I understood why.
Candelori’s Ristorante and Bar, a Smithfield institution since 1999, isn’t fronted by glowing lights. Rather, sleek black signage and a big, bold front door offer a sneak preview of what’s inside.
Like its door, the restaurant is huge, with seating for 240. The space screams long lunch so I made a mental note to return with all of my friends to indulge in just that. On this occasion though, it was a table for two, which felt intimate despite the expanse of diners around us.
Size matters, it seems, at Candelori’s because the menu, too, is enormous. All manner of taste buds are covered with the starter menu alone. Fancy some ocean trout or beef carpaccio, a serve of crumbed eggplant with buffalo mozzarella, or maybe the pan-roasted scallops with baked figs and prosciutto is more your flavor, everything sounded (and more importantly looked) delicious. Because we were overwhelmed by choice we stuck with a family favourite. the fried zucchini flowers filled with fior de latte, ricotta and spinach. They were crisp and creamy and we would have been happy to have had these as a main.
We also tucked into a cheeky pizzetta aglio erosmarino. Fresh from the stone floor of Candelori’s beautiful wood fire, the foldable crust with a touch of char was a delicious complement to the classic Italian flavours on top.
On to our main meal, a decision irrationally agonised over. So. Many. Options.
Although I could have easily picked from the pesce (grilled WA scampi, please), carne (crispy beef shortribs…and a bib, thank you) or la griglia (salt crusted rib eye, medium rare, ta muchly) options, it turned out to be a pasta kinda evening.
My saffron pappardelle with quail breast and pork sausage was a treat. The handcut pasta (made on site that morning) was firm while the sauce was rich with a trio of contrasting textures. Meanwhile, my plus-one became my minus-one as he disappeared into his pappardelle with osso buco ragu.
At this point, I feel an apology is in order. There was no review in the pipeline when we set off to experience Candelori’s. If there were, we would have mixed up our order to offer you a little extra insight, I promise. As you might have guessed, we’re pretty big pappardelle fans, but Candelori’s caters for lovers of gnocchi, mezzaluna, spaghettini, tagliolini, ravioli, linguine and fettuccine, too. Plus risotto. I told you it was a huge menu!
Our meal was further bolstered by a smashing red. After pondering over the extensive wine list, we ordered the 2013 Spinifex ‘Bete Noir’, but were politely convinced the 2013 Su’ento Bovale would be better suited. I was as impressed by our waiter’s confidence as I was by his selection. The bovale was soft and inviting, and made me long for Sardinia. Apart from being immediately whisked to the dreamy Italian island, a glass or two of this wine is the best possible substitute.
The dessert menu, which to my great disappointment was a look-but-don’t-touch scenario on this occasion (so full!), features Italian favourites such as tiramisu and cannoli, as you’d expect. Meanwhile, my eyes lit up at the sight of the Nutella dome (Nutella mousse with a Nutella custard centre with hazelnut biscuit and dried strawberries). Can you blame me?
Deservedly, Candelori’s has enjoyed a notable reputation beyond Sydney’s west for many years. I’m feeling pretty sheepish about my tardy debut. To make up for the delay, I plan to go back for the scampi. And the ribs. And the rib eye.
And yes, absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, the Nutella dome.
In the mood for more of Sydney's best Italian? Check out our best pasta dishes in Sydney!
Image Credit: Claudia Shmueli