Italian cuisine has always been one of my favourite cuisines since I was a kid. Even though it's heavy on the carbs, you just can't resist the al dente pasta or the melting cheese from the pizza as you pick up the slice. Recently, I was kindly invited by Wasamedia to the relaunch event of Candelori's in Smithfield. It's a suburb known for housing numerous industrial companies and warehouses as well as being located close to the rising foodie suburb of Fairfield in the Western Suburbs. Even though Smithfield is not too far from where I live, I was surprised to hear that this family-owned institution had actually been around for 15 years and had only recently underwent a renovation by DS17 (the same team who designed the layout for Casa Ristorante Italiano, Alpha, China Republic to name a few). By the way, can you believe that 1999 was actually 15 years ago?!?! Feels like yesterday. Gawd I feel old.
Candelori's was owned by the Candelori family who originally opened this restaurant in Smithfield to deliver authentic, no-fuss, simple and delicious Italian food with a welcoming atmosphere for those who found it hard to travel to Leichardt, Haberfield or the Stanley Street, Darlinghurst areas at the time. While there was a red carpet and expensive-looking cars sighted at front, the down to earth service and the hearty Italian food fare was evident once you enter the doors.
The layout was spacious enough to fit a few large functions including the main dining room at the front, the private dining room on the left and the marbled open kitchen adjacent to the dining room where the diners can witness the cooking magic taking place. There's even a giant wheel of grana padano cheese!!!
I was fascinated by the sample tastings provided by various local food producers featured at the launch event including olive oil, olives and wine.
Olive Oil from Finnis Estate
Lots and lots of wine from Fermoy Estate
Although there were a number of delicious produce, what got the crowds going was the people making the buffalo mozzarella and burrata cheeses fresh on the spot. There was also a solid crowd observing a machine cutting the prosciutto into thin slices (sadly I forgot to take a photo of this).
If it wasn't a full house, I would gladly have second servings of the creamy cheese and eat ALL the prosciutto because they were soooo goood!
Clockwise - Top to Bottom: Prosciutto, Buffalo Mozzarella, Burrata
After the tastings we were seated at our table where we were treated to a shared degustation consisting of a extensive selection of classic Italian dishes from Candelori's menu. While there were a number of traditional favourites like margherita pizza and antipasto, there were also a couple of plates that I have not tried until that night.
We began our degustation with a couple of starter plates (also known as Struzzchini). The first plate that was delivered to the table was a mixed plate of bruschetta. I always enjoyed the traditional tomato, basil and garlic on ciabatta bread (left on above picture) that was filled with juicy, ripe chopped tomatoes flavoured with olive oil. On the other hand, the woodfire-roasted capsicums on ciabatta bread (right) was a mouthful of flavours. Although the toppings remained on top for a while as the other dishes began popping up, the bread remained crusty as I finish off each bite.
Crumbed stuffed green olives filled with goat's milk feta and snap fried
While I've heard about crumbed stuffed olives in cookbooks, magazines and a few other restaurants, this was actually my first time trying it especially with feta. Since it was deep fried bread-crumbed olives stuffed with cheese, it was no surprise that they got quite addictive.
Complimentary bread and butter
We also had bread included though I tried to stay away in order to prepare for the main dishes. I did end up grabbing a slice and was wowed by how freshly baked and soft that the bread really was.
Been developing a strong appreciation of cheese and cured meats lately so I was extremely excited when this platter showed up. The antipasto board consisted of San Danielle prosciutto, salami casareccia, wagyu bresaola, Sicilian green olives, Sardinian crisp bread and parmigianno regianno. So much excitement on a plate that you don't know where to start! Think I may have gotten a bit greedy with my share...
For a lighter option, we got to try out the octopus carpaccio, which was something I do not usually see at many Italian restaurant menus but has become one of my faves from this degustation. The octopus was thinly sliced and marinated with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), lemon, dry chilli, parsley, orange zest, lemon thyme, baby capers and pomegranate seeds to deliver a burst of zesty flavours. Wouldn't mind ordering this again.
Buffalo mozzarella caprese
Of course you can't go wrong with a simple dish like this. While the sliced tomatoes were ice especially when seasoned with EVOO, the hero of the dish was of course the creamy buffalo mozzarella.
Oven baked figs
Zucchini flowers filled with ricotta cheese and spinach
And then there was even more cheese in the form of ricotta stuffed in fried zucchini flowers. I do love zucchini so eating it when battered and fried was a good experience. Tasted even better with a squeeze of lemon.
Gamberi in tegame
I have often drooled at seafood stew on Italian cooking and travel shows as well as cookbooks in the past so I was incredibly excited to try out this dish. The pomodoro sauce was had a tangy flavour due to the chilli (not very spicy btw), garlic, cherry tomatoes, olive oil and parsley. Plus the tiger prawns was absolutely succulent and fresh.
Gnocchi with duck ragu -
The following dish had a rustic texture with its slow-braised duck ragu and the shaved cheese (parmesan?) scattered on top. Enjoyed the thick ragu sauce as well as the gnocchi dumplings though they did get too soft a bit quickly.
Woodfired Pizza Margherita D.O.C
I do love a pizza with minimal toppings. Especially something as simple as a traditional, good old-fashioned Margherita pizza. The toppings consist of tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil; which all tasted so well together. Only tried one slice and was satisfied by the thin crisp base that didn't go soggy even when I took a mini break from eating for a few minutes. It definitely reminded me of the amazing pizzas I had in Italy two years ago (take me back!).
Crespelle - mascarpone crepe with warm Belgian dark chocolate and crushed hazelnuts
By this point I was absolutely stuffed but you know what we say about our stomach when it comes to dessert. I managed more than halfway through this dish thanks to the pool of dark chocolate coated with crushed hazelnuts and icing sugar however the food coma took over eventually. *sighs*. Loved the deliciously cooked crepe though.
During the night, me and a few bloggers were busy going crazy at the free photobooth at the back of the restaurant. So much fun times!
THAT GIANT CHEESE!!!
While Smithfield isn't a suburb I would go to very often, I wouldn't mind considering this option next time the folks want to eat out somewhere different for a special occasion. Would definitely like to return to try more of the options from the very extensive full menu that weren't available on the night. I was satisfied that a restaurant serving a range of authentic Italian dishes (and not just pastas and pizzas) exist in the heart of the western suburbs. The food producers demonstrating the sample tastings were amazing and the service was prompt throughout the night. In terms of pricing it's not the cheapest especially for a restaurant in the given area so I would recommend it for a special event or the occasional social gathering. Whether you are working in the area or catching up with family or friends, Candelori's is one to look out for especially with the family friendly atmosphere and impressive dishes without the need to travel so far for affordable, fine quality yet casual dining.
Disclaimer: The Random Foodie was invited to the Candelori's relaunch night as a guest, courtesy of Wasamedia. Opinions remain personal.
Candelori's Ristroante e Bar
685 The Horsley Drive, Smithfield NSW 2164
(02) 9729 1155
Lunch: Mon-Fri 12:00pm - 3:00pm
Dinner: Mon-Sat 6:00pm - 10:00pm