Monday, November 28, 2011

Bill & Toni's just fine

The death knell for fine dining has been sounding for quite some time. From unexpected three-hat restaurant closures to refreshed approaches to existing restaurant styles, fine diners are generally not the ones creating the most excitement among the masses.

On a well known street in Darlinghurst, restaurants come and go like the fashions turn. There are also some stayers on the 'Little Italy' of Stanley Street that baffle and then there are others, like Bill & Toni's, that are still going after more than 40 years of trade.

Orange cordial at Bill & Toni's Restaurant, Stanley Street, Darlinghurst
The upstairs restaurant of Bill & Toni's is shabby to say the least, but taking me right back to suburban Italian family restaurants where laminated picture menus feature alongside walls covered in postcards from Italy.

The outdoor balcony looks pretty as a picture, but we're distracted by the arrival of both water and orange cordial at the table. Complimentary orange cordial would have been an absolute treat for me some 20-odd years ago. Now, it's quaint and perhaps a tad unsophisticated, but we're not complaining on a balmy late evening.

There's even less complaint looking at the menu, where prices probably haven't changed in the last decade. A limited selection of pasta as a first dish starts at $10 (lasagna and marinara $12). Mains are all $16. Mains with a pasta side are $18, while a full main with a full pasta are $22. Enough said.

Penne bolognaise
The premise is fairly straightforward: a limited and simple menu; obviously contributing to keeping prices down. The penne bolognaise reminds me of high school lunches: a generous dollop of rich tomato sauce full of minced meat and just slightly over al dente pasta, and of course, parmesan cheese.

Lettuce salad on the side
With the mains comes a rather large stainless steel bowl of torn iceberg lettuce leaves, dressed in what seems like white vinegar. It does the job as a vegetable addition and not much more (even less than my local steakhouse).

Calves liver with onions
There's quite the selection of mains; and everything one would expect too. Calves liver with onion are just that; both grilled and served with a wedge of lemon and home style boiled carrot sticks and green beans. What the dish lacks in flavour it makes up for in quantity.

Scaloppine pizzaiola
Same goes for my main of the veal scaloppine, which would serve four in some restaurants. The tomato sauce had taken on a lot of the flavour from the black olives, while the veal was tender without being overly exciting. It was happy days mopping up the sauce with the basket full of complimentary white bread; fresh and perfectly fluffy for the job.

Indeed, the veal was even good the next day as the huge serving portions meant takeaway boxes were needed. Cheap, cheerful, and hearty servings; true to what it is and has been for the last 40 years, I think Bill & Toni's is just fine the way it is.

Bill & Toni's on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

That salad is a joke! And they didn't even bother to serve it on a plate!

Chopinand @ ChopinandMysaucepan said...

Dear Tina,

These places are living proof there is a market at every level of the dining spectrum which is definitely moving towards the mid tier offering value and a point of difference.

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

What I love about reading your post, is that Bill & Tony's hasn't changed one tiny bit since I last visited about 25 years ago. Seems it is still the same cheap no frills eat it has always been. Seriously the dishes look the same including the cordial, pretty awesome.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember this from my teenage years! We used to love the free cordial! :P

hannah said...

I adore Bill & Tony's. I even love the salad, there's something so...lovely about the simplicity of it all. And it is so cheap to boot! I always have a fab time and my family has been going there since I was born, my parents went there on dates, as a matter of fact! Big soft spot for B&T ♥

Tina said...

Hi lateraleating - I think it's this kind of cost/labour efficiency that keeps costs down :)

Hi Chopinand - Indeed, there's always people up for bargain dining too.

Hi Sara - Wow, that's something of a feat - 25 years and no change!

Hi Lorraine - Yeah, I kinda liked it though it could have done with less water ;)

Hi hannah - Definitely simple and cheap; and I think a sense of nostalgia is a must to enjoy it :)


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