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June 4, 2015

City pasta guide: Ruby Red Flamingo

The third week of CityMag’s pasta odyssey takes us to an old estate in North Adelaide where we find pasta that is as far from standard as the setting it is served in.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Joshua Fanning

The slightly smaller than usual door that grants entry to Ruby Red Flamingo is found at the end of a garden path running down the side of the old Tynte Street mansion where the restaurant is housed.


Visit Ruby Red Flamingo at 142 Tynte Street, North Adelaide for lunch Wednesday to Friday and dinner Wednesday to Saturday.

While all the dishes we ate were daily specials and might not always be available, Lauro does recommend the Macheroni Eggplant from the regular menu. The dish is his favourite, and has also been named by The Australian as amongst the top 10 pastas in Australia.

Once inside, the Alice in Wonderland feeling is embraced rather than dismissed – diners are seated in several different rooms, the service bar is tucked away in a little chamber of its own and hand painting, neon and fairy lights have been liberally applied.

The atmosphere and interior are about as far away from that of The Manse, the fine dining restaurant formerly located here, as you can get. Ruby Red co-owner Lauro Siliquini says that is exactly the point.

“We wanted it to be fun,” he says. “We’re really poking some fun at that stiff and starchy thing this used to be.”

We’re seated in the white marquee that is erected on one side of the building. The rows of festoon lighting, mismatched chairs, op-shop plates and very effective heaters make it just as desirable as any seat inside.

The regular menu is written across chalkboards that are strung up high in the marquee, but at Lauro’s suggestion we order two of today’s specials – both made with fresh pasta currently being rolled out by chefs upstairs.

The setting might be non-traditional, but the style of hospitality is still deeply Italian, so of course we’re fed more than we could possibly eat (and of course we still eat most of it). An entrée is brought out. It’s not pasta but it is delicious – bresaola (thinly-sliced, air-dried beef) that has a strong, straightforward but not too meaty flavour is well offset by a little lemon juice, rocket and parmesan.

The service is quick too – the crusty and chewy bread that arrived as we were seated has not yet been devoured as the bresaola is set down. But the bresaola doesn’t last long, and soon the pasta is on its way.

The first dish is a squid ink taglierini served with scallops, prawns, smashed cherry tomatoes and chilli in a white wine base. Many squid ink pastas go too far into briney territory, but this one is just savoury enough and still has plenty of the fun dark colour to it. The seafood is fresh and the cherry tomatoes and chilli provide just the right sweet and zesty foil to the taglierini. It’s a big serve too, but not one that would be hard to eat all of as sheer enthusiasm gets the better of you.

A handmade ravioli is put down next. Filled with the unfamiliar combination of potato and beetroot, it again has extra visual appeal. The sage butter sauce and poppy seed topping are particularly flavoursome, but not so much that they overpower what’s inside the perfectly-textured parcels. Nothing is big or bold in this dish, but the harmony of it is addictive.

In any right mind, this would have been plenty of food for two people (almost too much, in fact). But, when chef Enzo Verdino comes downstairs to ask if we’d like to try the cappelletti he was making when we photographed him it seems silly to say no.

Enzo delivers it to us, and explains that the brightness of the pasta is thanks to tumeric, which he adds to the dough.

“Tumeric is perfect for this dish because it gives that colour and gets you ready for what’s to come inside – the pumpkin,” he says.

The little hat-shaped pastas have been filled with pumpkin, gorgonzola, ricotta and kale and are served with sage butter, but also some cream and a Lambrusco and balsamic reduction. It’s a dish with origins in central Italy, Enzo explains, so the Lambrusco is important.

While we’re past full, we still almost finish the cappelletti. It is, unsurprisingly, beautifully textured – likely because it has just been rolled out by hand – and the flavour combination is different to anything we’ve tried before in Adelaide, although is probably familiar to those who have intimate knowledge of Italian food.

The final bites are worth being overfull, and are a sharp reminder that a good pasta meal goes far beyond some cream and ham chucked in a pan to make a lacklustre penne alla panna. With places like Ruby Red Flamingo in Adelaide, there’s certainly no need for that kind of thing.

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