RESTAURANT REVIEW: Don Beppino’s

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Don Beppino’s House of Lasagne Don Beppino is a stalwart on the Newcastle dining scene for either takeaway or eating in. Pictures: Peter Stoop
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Don Beppino is a stalwart on the Newcastle dining scene for either takeaway or eating in. Pictures: Peter Stoop

TweetFacebookAS far as Newcastle institutions go, Don Beppino’s is sewn more tightly into the tough fabric of our town than even our beloved Newcastle Knights. When Slammin’ Sam Stewart first led the Dominance out in ’88, Don Beppino’s had already been preparing fresh pasta in all shapes and sizes for over 15 years.

When Toowoomba Airport’s most high-profile couch surfer played that inside ball to Darren Albert on September 28, 1997, Don Beppino’s had been tossing fresh pizza bases into the air for 24 years.

While Nathan Tinkler mucked around with the Kingdom’s club, Don Beppino carried on cooking delicious Italian cuisine for many hungry locals, well beyond the borders of Merewether.

For 40-something years, Don Beppino’s House of Lasagna has been a Novocastrian gastronomic landmark. In this time, it’s become a beacon for old-school value and comfort in an ever-changing world of kale and micro greens.

At night, The House of Lasagna shines out from Railway Street courtesy of a straight row of bright white light bulbs, reflecting off white painted bricks, and two Italian flag-inspired awnings that arch over windows either side of the entrance.

Inside, the space is resplendent with more white – from the painted grooves on the rendered walls to the Roman-esque statues and figures, which includes two twisting columns at the entrance with the heads of roaring lions on top. The room is a rectangle with the service counter running in an L shape. There are pizza-making facilities at one end and selections from tonight’s menu, ready to go, at the other.

The dining space is small . . . no, wait, cosy. The dining space is cosy. There are wooden tables and chairs that are already set with glassware and cutlery, and laminated menus in the shape of an Italian flag, which will double as a place mat, as required. There’s a white statue of Diana the Hunter, in the window, and a reprint of The Creation of Adam, next to a pair of green shutters and a planter box, on the wall.

Whether dining in, or taking away, you place your order with the friendly staff behind the counter.

Unsure just what to eat, my dining associate and I ordered the ‘Mixed Dish’ option, which is “a combination of all the foods on the menu, including the meat dishes”. Bountiful and borderless, our meal came out within five minutes and was served as one. Deliciously indefinite, the Mixed Dish had, pretty much, all the hits on one plate. At least six separate dishes are unified as one under a generous helping of tomato passata, breadcrumbs (gratin), and baked cheese.

Separate small plates help us to divide and conquer the carbo-loaded feast set before our eyes. Slabs of veal rest at the top of the pile, held together by yellow globs of cheese that stretches as it clings desperately to the slices of baby beef being removed from the mess. Firm, yet soft, and very, very flavourful, the veal would have tasted even better on its own.

Underneath the veal is a mound of pasta in all the different vowel-ending shapes – rotini, tortellini, cannelloni, and ravioli – in shades of yellow and orange. Individually, the flavours of each is present and accounted for – sweet, nutty, herbaceous, rich and creamy – and the homemade pasta is really something special, but in the chaos of the plate, they all meld into one, great big, baked and indistinguishable mush of carbs and cheese.

As we wade our way through our meal, a constant stream of customers taking away boxed versions of what we’ve been eating keeps the takeaway section of Don Beppino’s busy, which, to be fair, is what this place has been set up to cater for.

The pizzas being prepared behind the glass look fresh, and somehow have less cheese on them than our mixed dish of veal and pasta, and if we weren’t so full we’d have ordered a pizza to go.

[Our BYO Dolcetto d’Alba, Piedmonte red was a top match with our Italian mash up, and the chilled carafe of local tap water provided some extra refreshment too.]

There are definitely more discerning places to go out for a meal in Newcastle, and the next time we go I think we’ll order a few separate plates instead.

But, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more timeless, family-friendly, value-for-money restaurant, either in town or out, which is probably the reason why Don Beppino’s (white) House of Lasagna is a Novocastrian institution.

What: Don Beppino’s House of Lasagne.

Where: 45 Railway Street, Merewether, Newcastle, 2291; Phone 4963 3969. On Facebook here

Drinks: BYO, soft drinks, water.

Hours: Dinner, Mon-Sun 5pm-10pm. Lunch, Tues-Sat from 11:30am.

Vegetarian: Yes.

Bottom line: $48 for two, plus drinks.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Do try: Veal. Tortellini. Takeaway.