Think retro vibes with an Italian twist! That’s what you can expect from Cafe Salsa, the recently reopened gem of West Beach. Brother sister duo, Lance and Tanya Scopocasa, along with best friend Natalie Baker, are proudly responsible and say they were beyond excited when the opportunity to take over the business was presented, and understandably so! Just a walk away from the beach itself, with its bamboo-stemmed walls and brilliantly retro and mismatched décor, Cafe Salsa hopes to revive its once vibrant atmosphere with good food and great vibes, and Adelaide Food Central were invited to the official opening and summer menu tasting to see for ourselves.
With the open space to let in the stunning day and the beautiful live music and singing voice of local artist Angela Tripodi, the atmosphere was sunny and buzzing once our first tastes were underway, starting with a selection of pizzas to go with the delicious Pimms and Salsa Sun cocktails.
The pizza bases were lovely and thin, crisp underneath and leading way for the well flavoured toppings; which of the ones I got to try included the Seaside, showcasing juicy prawns and calamari, complimented by garlic and lemon zest, as well as the Calabrese, with mozzarella, fresh and tender pork sausage, dark kale, and topped with provolone and parmesan.
Next to come around was the White Bait, a tiny but delicious fish that’s floured and fried whole. With the pleasant fish (but not too fishy) flavour, and so small in size, these are almost too easy to eat! Well seasoned with salt and pepper, and a pleasantly tangy tartare sauce for dipping, a great starter to any meal.
Along with another glass of delicious Pimms, we were served the Arancini – crumbed rice pilaf balls with the chef’s choice of fillings. The rice was cooked well and gave off a delightful (and somewhat mysterious) smokiness in taste, which contrasted to the sweetness of the whole peas that were distributed throughout.
A meaty serve of the Stuffed Mushrooms were what followed, and as a longtime lover of fungi, I only wish I could have had more! The eggplant layer in between was more of a creamed texture, which was pleasantly different and went well with the hits of garlic, chilli and parsley. I’d go on record to say that there aren’t many things in life that can’t be made even better with melted cheese, and this dish is a great example – the top layer of melted provolone cheese was the perfect finish.
Lemon Pepper Calamari was up next; served with shoestring fries and rocket and parmesan salad, it was an awesome beachside meal. You can’t go wrong with the combination of peppery rocket and sharp parmesan, and the calamari was beautifully seasoned. The herbs were deliciously strong in the lemon pepper flour, and there was a nice vinegar-like tang in the aftertaste.
Coming up we had three pasta dishes to try, and when dining authentic Italian, it’s the pasta dishes you’re most excited for, right? With the skill to produce handmade pasta and share recipes passed down, Italian heritage is what makes it all the more authentic, and that’s exactly what head chef Joe Cazzetta has come on board with. Along with his desire to incorporate locally sourced seasonal produce, it’s the perfect combination for good home cooked food enjoyed in a loud and happy setting, just like Nonna’s place.
First was the Gnocchi Salsiccia, which shows off a rich, full flavoured tomato sugo, and tender pieces of salty pork sausage complimented by the sweetness of capsicum and cherry tomatoes. The gnocchi were lovely and soft but still kept their shape, and authentically, their sizes weren’t uniform and ranged in shape from one yummy morsel to the next.
The next dish, Cassarecce Granchio, was a unique take on the granchio pasta dishes we’ve come to know. The choice of cassarecce with the crab was an interesting one, being a shorter pasta and more dense than the usual, making the eating experience different and unexpected. The crab was sweet, and balanced well with the white wine and cherry tomatoes in a rose sauce.
The last pasta to try was one for vegetarians and those alike; the Pappardelle Vegitana, boasting a range of white wine sauteed vegetables throughout a rich napolitana sauce, including zucchini, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum, garlic, parsley & chilli. For me, the vegetables had a subtle roasted flavour to them that also infused the sauce, and the pappardelle was cooked perfectly al dente.
For final main, and another goody if you love your mushrooms, the Scallopini Fungi. Wonderfully tender pan fried veal, served on a bed of sweet potato mash, and finished with a creamy brandy mushroom sauce. The sweet potato mash was smooth and sweet as you’d imagine, but the higlight for me was the creamy brandy mushroom sauce. It was subtle, but I thought it complimented the veal well, and eaten with each element alone or as one nice forkful, it was a mushroomy delight.
Lastly, we were on to dessert! Claimed their signature dessert dish, the Banana Doughnuts were first of the two. Perfectly sized doughnut balls, coated in cinnamon and filled with melting chocolate… what’s more to say? Served with a silky vanilla ice cream, these are sure to be a hit all year round.
The Vanilla Pannacotta, with the perfect wobble and a super creamy texture, may have been my fave. With hints of orange blossom and lemon zest, there was great contrast between the super sweetness of the vanilla and the tart of the raspberry coulis, a joy to eat and left us wanting more.
Those lucky to be in attendance got the opportunity to eat, drink, be merry, and bare witness to the optimistic team and their commitment to the positive changes at Cafe Salsa. There’s a strong passion, not only for the food and enjoyable environment that they can provide, but also for business and community in this popular area. Proving this, Cafe Salsa is now offering weekend Breakfast! What better way to spend the weekend mornings right by the beach, from 8am to 11am Saturday and Sunday, you can check out the exciting new menu here.
Adelaide Food Central would like to thank Mercy Me Marketing and Cafe Salsa for their hard work and hospitality.
Words by Marie Fiorita
WHERE: 5 West Beach Rd, West Beach