In Italy there is one in every village, almost one on every corner. It is the local restaurant, often having been operated by the same family since inception. Perhaps two, three or even four generations will be present at any one time, the grandmother making the pasta with the help of her friends! The menu rarely changes and neither does the staff nor the regular customer base.
They are noisy, the food is basic but hearty, everybody appears to know everybody else and the conversations can spread over many tables, often all at the same time.
And then there is Café Marzano. Not in Italy but just a stroll from the beach at Legian, Bali. A waitress runs across, squealing, to welcome a returning guest. Another waitress is giving a departing guest a small gift from Bali. Much hugging and kissing on cheeks! You could almost believe that the Balinese waitresses were Italian, they do a very good impression.
The noise is the same, the food is the same.
Not many restaurants survive a move. Café Marzano was originally sited in Jln. Kunti, Seminyak. It was busy from the day it opened so a move to new premises had to be fraught with danger. Whilst the original location had much more style this new one has more buzz. The move has worked!
A large wood-fired oven jutting through the outer wall is one of the first things you see. Presiding over this is Mauro Ferrarese their master pizza maker. All the traditional pizzas are on their menu as well as a few unusual creations, in total 39 different pizzas. The Siciliana has no mozzarella, just a tomato base topped with olives, capers, anchovies, horegan herb and garlic. A Viennese is covered with sliced German sausage, Popey is with ricotta cheese and spinach, Ayam with chicken and black pepper, the Mascia with mozzarella, ricotta and gorgonzola cheeses, eggplant and then Parmesan cheese on top as well and the Mauro is with bocconcini, fresh tomato, basil and olive oil. All the toppings are available by the serve so you can also create your own pizza, the way many prefer it! I start with a base pizza that I like then add all my super favourite extras!
But this café sells much more than just Pizza. It opens early morning for breakfast, morning snacks and leisurely brunches. A Complete Breakfast, Italian-style, is Scrambled Eggs on toast with sausages, mushrooms and tomato. But for a real Italian breakfast try a Panzerotto. A thin round of pizza dough is folded over, half moon shape, wrapped around a variety of fillings before being deep-fried. The filling can be meat, cheeses, jams or Nutella chocolate cream, and whichever you choose there will be plenty of it. The Prosciutto Panzerotto has a pile of ham shavings on one side and mozzarella cheese on the other, rather than all together as you may have expected. This way you can mix and match as you wish between the ham and cheese inside the hot doughy casing.
Focaccia is a special of Marzano but it is served in the southern style, crisp and thin, with many different toppings of cheeses, salads and vegetables.
They also offer many salad variations including Prosciutto and Mozzarella [with lettuce leaves, tomato and grated carrot], Calabrese [tomato slices with onion, boiled potatoes, parsley and basil], Carciofi [lettuce with artichoke, tomato, black olives and horegan herb] and their Marzano Special of lettuce with walnuts, apple, anchovies and Parmesan.
For me a great snack or small starter is their Saltimbokka. 2 small rounds of very thin crisp toasted bread is piled high with shavings of honey ham laced with a light cream and black pepper. Simple and tasty!
The Pasta is by Mamma Rosa, just like it would have been in Italy. And if you dare to leave any pasta on your plate uneaten she demands to know why? Penne, Spaghetti, Fusilli, Tortelloni and Gnocchi, it is all here with their most traditional accompaniments. But it is the Classical Lasagna stuffed with Bolognese sauce between the layers, that I enjoy here the most.
A few interesting mains have been added to the menu since the location change. Vitello Bella Italia is a marinated fillet of veal with red and green peppers, Filetto Alle Erbette is a beef fillet in a herb/garlic sauce with spinach French fries and Salmone Amore is salmon medallions in a cream sauce with pink peppercorns.
For dessert a Tiramisu of course! Then there is Affogato al Caffe, an Italian Ice Cream with espresso whipping cream and chocolate whilst both Pizzas and Calzones can be had stuffed with that Nutella chocolate cream. The coffee is Italian of course, another perfect cup of Illy.
Close your eyes and you will think you are in Italy! The only shock here is the low, low prices.