The name is really rather hard to beat, isn’t it? Don Beppino’s House of Lasagna in the Newcastle suburb of Merewether is something of an institution, not dissimilar to [my childhood second home] Bar Italia. The décor is atrocious; the food is fantastic; the vibes are high and the prices are ridiculously low.
Rasta and I enjoyed a wonderfully filling selection of Mediterranean carbohydrates, all topped with tomato passata and/or cheese and/or breadcrumb gratin. We then shared a pizza for good measure. The guy at the counter was extremely impressed with our healthy European appetites.
A cute handwritten sign above the counter (signed off by the Don himself) informs us that there is no chef in the kitchen, “only Italian Ladies who do the cooking as it was taught to them by their mothers and Grandmothers.” Don goes on to say, “I feel obliged to tell you the names of these beautiful Ladies, Angela, Rosa, Filomena and Anna. they have been working here for the past 42 years since we opened Don Beppino’s.”
The Italian Ladies make everything from scratch, including the pasta, every afternoon. The pre-prepared dishes are then displayed in the big counter and the food is heated up and plated (with toppings and sides) to order. The restaurant only seats about 16 people – it’s mostly a take-away business, so the pre-prepared system is perfect. Then there is the pizza oven section where the boys are kept busy all night rolling and twirling dough for a constant stream of orders.
The three dishes we ordered from the main counter were supposedly entrée-sized, but could easily have been a whole dinner each. The Polpette al Uovo weren’t, unfortunately, the ‘Italian scotch egg’ I’d envisioned; rather, the large egg-shaped things turned put to be fried dumplings made from breadcrumbs, egg and cheese(s). Not a light start! The Ricotta Crêpes were superior, with an incredibly tasty filling also involving spinach and romano cheese. Topped with a cheesy breadcrumb gratin and served with a small field’s worth of fried potatoes!
We couldn’t not have lasagna at the House of Lasagna, but it was ultimately the vegetarian one which took our fancy: silken layers of home-made pasta sheets with spinach, mushrooms, creamy sauce and a year’s supply of cheese.
And then we had the lovely pizza, the Viviana special with olives, mushrooms, onion and bacon. And we ate it ALL.
(NB: Clearly they’re not on Urbanspoon. 45 Railway Street, Merewether.)