Nine years ago, in August 1998, I was travelling around Mexico on a Trek America tour with nine or so fellow travellers. One of those fellow travellers was Kaz Kaufman, a Sydneysider, with whom I shared many margaritas under the stars. We remained firm friends, and I was a welcome guest in the home she shared with her partner Phil and dog Renton.
Kaz, incidentally, is allergic to chillies. The merest whiff of one brings her out in blisters. So it was pretty brave of her to travel around Mexico where the words "sin chile" indicate only that the chef should be a little less extravagant with the chillies. It would never dawn on anybody to put NO chilli in anything. Similarly for India and most of the rest of South East Asia, all of which has been extensively traveled by the indomitable Kaz.
So it was this evening that I found myself in in Sydney, meeting Kaz for dinner in Amo Roma, a charming Italian place in the most touristy part of Sydney, the Rocks. You would think it would be a tacky venue, but it was lovely. We sipped salty margaritas in the outdoors dining area on an unusually balmy August (late winter) evening, and put the world to rights.
The staff were simultaneously unobtrusive and attentive, patient with two people more interested in catching up on the gossip than reading the menu. The menu included the standard pasta and pizza fare, plus interesting winter dishes such as slow roasted lamb shanks and chilli-marinated calamari (naturally we didn't order this one). Kaz chose a simple pizza with mozzarella, anchovies and black olives, while I ordered the lasagne. Both were delicious. The wine list was respectable enough, with a number of Italians wines by the glass. I chose a WA Shiraz.
The gas heaters were switched on just before the chill got too much, so there was no rush. We ordered coffees - incredibly smooth Vittoria espresso - before settling the bill, a respectable $104.
By the time we left the place was almost full. For such a tacky part of town most of the diners seemed like locals meeting up after work. Not bad for the Rocks. I will be back.