It may have been and error of judgement to meet up at the Botany View first … Wendy, tonight’s guest performer, is a Quest virgin. (No, not that Wendy another Wendy – sometimes known as Weed.) Now, an important thing to remember here is that for some reason which was never made clear, (or if it was, I wasn’t paying sufficient attention) Wendy had been on a beer fast for some time prior to our meeting up at the Botany View. Wendy and I arrived first and availed ourselves of a couple of hipster ales. When Strop arrived, her first concern was whether Alberto’s Pizza, was licensed. She wasn’t worried so much about whether to buy wine to take with us but more concerned about how many drinks she would need first.
The Botany View is a likeable pub on a Friday night. Very local, not too hipster. The pub golf club runs a chocolate wheel in the bar amongst the diners and the drinkers. There are lots of screens, particularly up the TAB end. Depending on which direction you look you can be distracted by greyhounds, golf, or rock and roll. I don’t remember hearing any music over all the chatter, but the music screen was showing images from my era: Jimmy Barnes; ACDC; Hoodoo Gurus; The Sports. It is a convivially chaotic scene and I am looking forward to trying the food out.
Wendy and Strop have been knitting and sewing soulmates for a long time. At one point in the distant and misty-moist past they started a short lived venture called Fiasco Fabrications which unfortunately lived up to its name. The conversation pin-balled its way from knitting, wool collections, Italian Vogue, cakes, retirement planning, buttons, rising sea levels, Open Sores (aka Ocean Shores), and the tragic loss of the original Darrell Lea shops and uniform. In between there was some drinking, a few toilet breaks and one or two arguments about how long ago a particular event happened.
Before the chocolate wheel was spun, we headed out into the cold and walked the short block to Alberto’s in search of food. Now Wendy blames the fizziness of the beer, but I think the shock of cold air could be to blame, but whatever the reason the result was clear. Hiccoughs.
As soon as we sat down in the otherwise empty restaurant, Wendy’s diaphragm started spasming at regular intervals. Which made ordering an interesting procedure. She tried holding her breath, but had to avoid eye contact in the process to maintain the required level of concentration. Strop suggested drinking water upside down, but Wendy was wise to decline the offer. It’s not really the type of procedure to be tried in public. Not that there were many people to see, only the staff. We were the only customers at that point. A few others came in later, un-deterred by Wendy’s periodic eruptions, and there was a steady stream of take away customers and pizza deliveries all the time we were there.
Wendy managed to get her breath long enough to order a Santa Euphemia (or santa euphemism as my auto-corrected notes prefer), Strop chose the potato pizza, her personal favourite, and I ordered a Napoletana, because anchovies. Then there was the discussion about size. Wendy gritted her teeth and clamped down on her diaphragm long enough to suggest small, but she was out voted by Strop and I who thought we needed mediums. We should have listened to her, despite her affliction she had a better handle on our consumptive capacities. By this time we had well and truly decided that no more alcohol was required and we were getting through the water at a pretty good clip, even without any upside down hi-jinx.
The pizzas arrived promptly and took up most of the table. The toppings were generous, but it was a bit hard to tell the pizzas apart because they were all covered with a thick layer of cheese. The potato pizza was not what Strop was expecting. It came with thick slices of roasted potato and tomatoes, not the thin slices sprinkled with rosemary she had been remembering from Rome. All the pizzas had lots of fresh vegetables in the mix but the crusts were a bit thick and soft for my taste and there was a lot of cheese.
We were just starting to realise how much more pizza we had on the table than we could fit in our stomachs, when Alberto himself emerged from the kitchen and did a tour of the tables chatting to his guests. This sort of opportunity is right up Strop’s street, of course. When he got to our table she started quizzing him about his life, how long he had been running the restaurant, how long he’d been in Australia, which part of Italy he was from. And Alberto was up for the challenge, telling us how he had arrived in 1953 at the age of 17 and had followed Queen Elizabeth around the southern half of Australia as his ship made its way from Perth to Sydney. While we were listening to his stories, Wendy sat still with a mildly surprised expression on her face. Alberto had performed a miracle, the hiccoughs had departed as soon as he had arrived at our table. When Alberto had to leave to prepare more pizzas, Wendy sat nervously in case the hiccoughs were just waiting for him to turn his back. Luckily the Alberto cure stuck, and just to make sure, he returned a couple of more times, bringing with him photos – him with his brother, a couple of lads about town in the 1950s – him with his band playing accordion for the workers on the Snowy Mountains scheme at Thredbo. There was no sign of the hiccoughs after that.
So there you are, go to Alberto’s for generous toppings, history and hiccough cures.
We had been planning on stopping off at Izba for some Russian dessert treats on the way home but we were now well and truly stuffed -and there was still almost a full pizza if you reassembled the left over slices. Oh well, Izba will have to wait for another time.