At this city pasta joint a glowing neon noodle leads you from the street-level foyer of the Cranker up the stairs to the laid-back diner. The simple but kitschy fit-out echoes the old-school, community-club-style interior of cross-town mates Sunny’s.
In the main room there’s a central bar stocked with Italian wine varietals; olive-green booth seating; and mismatched black-and-white photographs. Down the hallway is a separate poolroom-of-sorts (minus the pool table) with a couch to enjoy some pre-pasta proseccos on. Posters of “giallo” films (a genre of cheesy 20th-century Italian thrillers) and scrawled crayon – courtesy of launch-night customers – cover the walls. A second bar on the balcony has sparkling water on tap to cleanse the palate between dinner and dolce (dessert).
Wednesdays are notte di famiglia (“family night”), which means $15 bowls of spaghetti and cheap jugs to coincide with the Cranker’s famous $3 schooner night.
Expect fettucine carbonara (sans cream, as it should be), spaghetti bolognese and chitarra (a variety of egg pasta) pesto. Of course, Midnight Spaghetti is the star. The rustic, red-sauce pasta with anchovies, pangrattato (breadcrumbs) and chili has long been a go-to among kitchen staff at the end of a long shift, or an impromptu late-night dinner option.
The menu caters to modern tastes with a significant lean towards plant-based dishes. There are fresh, green, tasty plates of creamy burrata with broccoli, broccolini and cauliflower. And okra and brussels sprouts with chilli and mint yoghurt. There’s also a gluten-free pasta option with zucchini “noodles” tossed with cherry tomatoes, basil, ricotta and spinach.
It’s Italian varietals only on the wine list. Fiano, montepulciano, sangiovese and nero d’avola come from local and Italian producers, and there’s an exclusive garganega from the King Valley.