THE SUNDAY TIMES 23 AUG 2013
For months now food lovers in the know had been urging me to try this Italian restaurant in Cambridge st, Floreat ‘Yeah, I’ll get there one day was my attitude, as I focused instead on the new food dudes swaggering through laneways in the city and revitalising strips in new reawakened suburbs.
Why bother with a suburban restaurant that has starchy white tablecloths and embossed 1000-thread count napkins? Well, what an idiot I turned out to be. On a night when we needed more comfort than cool, it was nothing short of extraordinary and now my favourite midweek local. Though that description does it a disservice Prego is deserving of far more praise.
Our last-minute booking for five, on a cold and stormy night, was instantly accepted and within 15 minutes we were basking in the warm glow of attentive staff.
According to one fan, owner/chef Joseph Souti knows how to put love on this plate. And while we all felt in love, it was devoid of cheesy smarminess or violins.
Instead, Souti combines his Middle eastern background with his Italian Training to churn out favourite dishes from his childhood. It must have been a happy one because love was there in droves from the complimentary falafel balls starter to the special dessert of haloumi with sugar syrup, rosewater and pistachio nuts.
In between were flavour-filled, heart-warming dishes such as osso buco tortellini with shavings of truffle bobbing in a clear reduction bursting with earthy wow factor.
I gave myself a pat on the back for choosing the patagonian toothfish, which was a triumph of crispy skin wrapped around a moist, tender fillet with a ragu of sexily salty potato cubes. On the side was a cleansing rocket salad with orange dressing. As Joseph said:” It was food made with love that would ensure you woke up smiling.”
The rest of the group also woke the next day with a ray of sunshine thanks to dishes such as slow-cooked duck, braised goat and beef cheeks, and a salmon fillet with goat cheese and potato purée. There were served of perfectly seasoned moreish rosemary potatoes, a stunning stuffed eggplant dish, and a veal saltimbocca with rounds of tender brown meat so good that it made me feel sorry for vegetarians.
I haven’t mentioned the wines but whoever does the wine list has a deft touch and we toasted his or her fancy-pants cleverness with Greenstones Shiraz and Clos Marguerite Sauvignon Blanc.
When I spoke to Souti the next day to thank him for providing one of the most wholesome, rewarding, comforting meals of my life, I asked him his secret. “It’s really very simple,” he said. “I cook with a lot of love”.
And, from where the diners are sitting, the feeling is mutual.
Perth Now: Review
“WE want to cook for you and make you happy.”
That’s the message on the menu at family-owned Prego, the newest restaurant on the Cambridge St strip.
It’s a simple philosophy but one that should put a smile on the face of everyone who walks through the door, making this a great local – classic, not too try-hard and seriously good.
The food, prepared by the owner/chef Joseph Souti, is true to its Mediterranean roots with love and competence poured into Italian favourites. The service, overseen by Joseph’s son, Vlad, is outstanding.
“I think they have recognised you,” whispered my husband when a complimentary falafel with tahini landed. Later complimentary baklava arrived when we said no to dessert. But there was not a flicker of recognition – everyone got the same superstar treatment.
There’s a wealth of hospitality flowing through every corner of the unpretentious but beautifully fitted-out corner space. Staff top up your wine and water and regale the specials with panache.
Each dish was a standout.
Beef carpaccio was more robust than delicate with the raw beef served a tad thicker than usual. But paired with some excellent parmesan and a dob of pesto, it was the perfect marriage. Drizzles of lemon and olive oil kicked in with each mouthful, thus illustrating Joseph’s simple food philosophy.
“I believe there should be no more than five ingredients in each dish,” he tells me the next day.
That came through also in the simply stunning seared veal medallions. They looked like a picture, resting on crispy cubes of baked potato and a row of steamed asparagus on the top. Lemoney and peppery, it was tender as a turtledove and just gorgeous.
So, too, was the crispy-skinned barramundi, which flaked away decadently on the fork and counteracted texturally with the potato fingers underneath.
We didn’t order dessert but if the sticky-sweet baklava was any indication that was our loss. But by then the smiles were well and truly in place.
Food: Four stars
Ambience: Three stars
Service: Four stars
Drinks: Three and a half stars
Love: Attentive staff