La Casalinga, Camberwell

La Casalinga is a small Italian restaurant located on Camberwell Road, near Camberwell Junction. It's definitely one of my favourite restaurants for Italian in the suburbs, as the dishes are very authentic and there's a great variety to choose from. This was my third time to La Casalinga, and like the previous two times, I was very happy with the service and food overall.

The restaurant itself isn't very big, but there's a very cosy, family feel to the place, with the decor like that of a family home- pictures are hung up on the walls and the setting of the tables is very simple. Service was really great, and the staff were extremely friendly and helpful. One of my friends is lactose intolerant, so we wanted to make some changes to the toppings on the pizzas, and the staff were more than happy for us to do so, and helped suggest what they thought would be best. We were also asked several times if we wanted anything to drink, and did not have to ask for more water as it was always refilled for us. 

Between five of us, we decided on three large pizzas and a pasta dish to share, and the portions were enough to leave us feeling satiated but not too full. The pizzas we ordered were the Diavola ($18.50), the Salsiccia e funghi ($18.50) and the Golosa ($20), and the pasta was a spaghetti dish with tiger prawns and cherry tomatoes. The menu has a great range of both pizzas and pastas, as well as a chef's special section, along with specials of the day.

The Diavola consists of tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, roasted capsicum, Kalamata olives and fresh chilli. This was the pizza that we chose to have no cheese on top to cater for our friend, as there was already so many toppings on it already. We actually decided to have mushrooms on top to replace on cheese, and it made for a great combination with all the other elements. The chilli gave the pizza good heat, but if you can't really take spicy, it might be a bit too much. The capsicum was a little sweeter than what I usually expect from the vegetable, but with the saltiness of the olives, the heat from the chilli and the hot salami, it wasn't too bad.

The Salsiccia e funghi pizza consists of tomato, mozzarella, Italian pork sausage and mushrooms. The Italian sausage didn't taste much different to a normal sausage, and actually felt a little fatty. Despite that however, I really enjoyed the combination of mushrooms with the sausage on the thin pizza base. At times, it felt like that the sausage was a little heavy and might cause the slice of pizza to collapse as the base was so thin, but it held together surprisingly well.

The Golosa pizza consists of tomato, mozzarella, ham off the bone, salami, roasted capsicum, mushrooms, Spanish onion and green olives. I really enjoyed this pizza, as the different toppings gave it a good mix of flavours, and the onion and olives gave it more texture, in particular more crunch. Spanish onion can have quite a strong tang if there is too much of it, but there was just the right amount on our pizza for the distinct onion flavour to come through, yet not be too overpowering. The ham off the bone was lovely and tender, and you could taste the flavour of it despite all the other toppings with much stronger flavours, which was really great.

The spaghetti dish came with tiger prawns and cherry tomatoes, and was cooked in olive oil, with a touch of napoli and chilli. This was a great pasta dish to go with the three pizzas just to fill you up a bit more, and was actually one of the menu items on the chef's specials list. The cherry tomatoes were very juicy and rich in flavour, and not too acidic at all. There was a generous amount of tiger prawns in the dish, and they had good elasticity and flavour that wasn't overpowered by the napoli. I couldn't actually taste the chilli element of the dish, but maybe because I can take quite a bit of heat. The spaghetti itself was also quite good; it wasn't too hard or squishy, and had just the right level of firmness.

We also decided on two desserts to share, and ended up getting the Strawberry and Nutella Calzone ($11.50) and the Banana and Honey Calzone ($10.50). A calzone is a pizza that has been folded in half like a moon shape, and stuffed with filling that is savoury or sweet. The calzones we ordered came with icing sugar and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, and was the perfect finish to the meal. 

The strawberry and nutella calzone had just the right amount of nutella to strawberries so that it wasn't too sweet, and the ice cream on the side refreshed your palette if it got a bit heavy with all the richness from the two. The banana and honey calzone was also really great, and surprisingly not too sweet, despite the fact that both elements of the dish is generally quite sweet. 

I would definitely recommend La Casalinga if you happen to be in the Camberwell area and are looking for great authentic Italian food. The prices aren't too bad and portions are quite decent, and the atmosphere of the whole restaurant is lively and cheerful. The few times I've been, the restaurant is always full by about 7-730, so you can tell that it's quite a popular place for a meal. 

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