In Rome, the mark of good suppli is the long string of mozzarella that stretches from mouth to ear when the crisp exterior is torn apart. The effect is much like an old fashioned telephone; hence the name suppli al telefono.
At the former Surry Hills Baccomatto Osteria (now Randwick-based), the croquettes are double-crumbed and made with chef Valerio Boncompagni’s signature Roman ragu mixed with rice and mozzarella. Does mine pass the telefono test? O mio Dio – does it ever.
Owners Mauro Marcucci and Michael Stevens are veterans of Australia’s Italian food scene. Marcucci has been in the industry for 30 years, working in restaurants such as Sydney’s Enopizzeria, Italian Street Kitchen, Pizza e Birra, Mille Vini, Termini, and Melbourne’s iconic Caffe e Cucina. He has that bon-vivant quality that is at the heart of any true Italian establishment, knowing his customers by name and their coffee preference. It’s the kind of warmth that generates a devoted following.
They relocated to Randwick’s glossy new Newmarket dining precinct because the Surry Hills building was being redeveloped. It’s not too far from Prince of Wales Hospital and is larger than the moody Surry Hills site, but has similar clean lines, bottle-lined shelves and marble bars. It’s also much brighter, with full-length glass doors that slide back to bring the outside in. There are tables on a square shared by the second outpost of Redfern’s revered RaRa Ramen, juicery Cali Press and a barbershop (more restaurants are slated for the coming months).
Roman dishes make up 90 per cent of the menu and they’ve gone with a decidedly more easy-going vibe this time around. “We decided that pizza al taglio [a style of pizza invented in Rome and traditionally sold by weight, in rectangular or square slices] would work well here,” says Marcucci. “It brings a casualness to the place.”
The team were inspired by the godfather of the pizza al taglio, Roman-based Angelo Iezzi, who revolutionised the process by making the dough more airy and light. “We only use type 1 flour, stone-milled and mixed with a wholemeal flour and raised for 72 hours. The pizza has air in it, which makes it lighter – it doesn’t sit in your stomach.”
Boncompagni makes the pizza bianca in-house (it’s priced $7.50–$12) and is best enjoyed alongside a plate of mortadella or bresaolo “When I was growing up I used to come out of school, go straight to the alimentari, buy pizza bianca and load it up with mortadella. In Italy, we eat bread with everything.”
The extensive antipasti menu also includes fiori di zucca (lightly fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and whole anchovies), hunks of cheese such as parmigiano reggiano and meatballs in tomato sauce. One of the few non-Roman dishes is the burrata. “Burrata is from Puglia, but the way I like to eat is like this,” says Marcucci as he bursts a globe of soft white cheese over a bed of red and yellow tomatoes. “Mix it up and eat it with a piece of pizza and you’re laughing.”
The pasta is made fresh each day. There’s bucatini amatriciana (hollow spaghetti with small cubes of pork jowl, pecorino cheese, white wine, tomatoes and chilli) and spaghetti cacio e pepe is so perfectly al dente and mingled with creamy pecorino and black pepper to rival the best in Rome. The porchetta, pan-fried fish of the day and an airy tiramisu that were favourites on the old menu have made their way east, too, and it’s all very reasonably priced.
“I’ve always said that for me the most important thing is to eat in my restaurants and be happy with what I serve. I want to eat the food I love and am passionate about. What is better than when someone cooks the food you love and serves it to you?” says Marcucci.
2/164 Barker Street, Randwick
(02) 8018 4236
Mon–Sat 12pm–4pm, 5.30–11pm
Sun 12pm–4pm, 5.30–10pm