Six fire engines were called to long-running Italian restaurant Bar Reggio in Darlinghurst at around 1.45pm on Wednesday afternoon after a blaze broke out in the kitchen.

“We noticed there was a little flame on the top of the grill, inside the exhaust,” said Mandy Rovacchi, manager and owner of Bar Reggio, which opened in 1994. “We got the extinguisher and tried to put it out and then it went from zero to 100 – the flames and smoke were everywhere.”

A visibly upset Rovacchi talked to Broadsheet while standing on the corner of Crown and Stanley streets among a group of kitchen staff and diners, who looked on as firefighters assessed the damage.

Rovacchi says the incident “happened so quick”, but the fire was pulled under control by fast-moving staff and fire services, which arrived on the scene quickly.

Fire and Rescue NSW superintendent Norman Buckley told Broadsheet the cause of the fire is yet to be determined. It is currently liaising with the building occupants to find out the exact source of the fire, but did confirm it started on the ground floor. A “cherry picker” was being used by the fire brigade to survey the scene.

Fire and Rescue NSW said on its Twitter account “#FRNSW crews are on the scene of a restaurant fire in Crown St. Firefighters are attacking a fire in the kitchen area.”

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Rovacchi said the fire didn’t spread beyond the kitchen and no one was hurt, with diners quickly evacuated from the restaurant.

“Everyone got a free lunch,” she said. “Let’s look on the bright side. I’m sure we’ll be cooking by Friday.”