It’s 1999 and Gabriella Fedeli has just opened the doors to Il Baretto, an ode to her Italian motherland on leafy Bourke Street in Surry Hills. The cucina is dimly lit, rustic and unpretentious. Head chef and co-owner Domenico Santopadre is in the kitchen plating up regional dishes, Fedeli’s son Brendan is helping out on the floor and the tables are filling with hungry locals who will return time and time again for generous bowls of pasta and risotto, beef carpaccio and vanilla panna cotta.
Fedeli didn’t plan to move her restaurant into a new spot double the size when she closed back in March to find a new space – but that’s exactly what’s happened.
“Who would have thought? When we decided not to renew the [Surry Hills] lease, we were looking for a similar little corner shop. Then we found this,” she tells Broadsheet. “It certainly wasn’t planned, but it’s been amazing. It’s worked out really well.”
On October 9, Il Baretto will reopen in the Paddo Inn’s dining room. The pub is owned by Elliot Solomon, who Fedeli remembers slurping spaghetti at her restaurant when he was a teenager. Il Baretto’s capacity will more than double from 46 patrons to 120 (52 until coronavirus restrictions lift).
A lot about the new venue will be the same, but much will be different, too. For the first time you’ll be able to make a booking and pay with credit card. There’ll be a greater emphasis on pasta. The signature slow-cooked duck ragu will still feature (“to get rid of it now would be silly”), as will dishes such as spaghetti alle vongole (clam pasta), polpette al sugo (pasta with meatballs) and saltimbocca alla romana (a classic Roman veal dish). Plus, Paddo Inn patrons will both be able to order from a bar menu of chicken schnitzels, lasagne and pan-fried barramundi.
Peroni will still be on tap, and the wine list will highlight around a dozen Italian and Australian wines, poured into tumblers as at the original (but you can swap for a stemmed glass if you prefer). There’ll also be Aperol Spritzes and Blood-Orange Negronis. .
“Just because the surroundings look a little flashier, the essence is still a casual family restaurant,” Fedeli says. “You can come for date night, you can come with the kids at 5.30pm and make a mess on the floor, you can come with a group for occasions.”
Bookings for the new Il Baretto are now open, and many “faithful regulars from Surry Hills have already put their names down,” Fedeli says. “This is a nice part of Paddington. We’re surrounded by some fabulous establishments; I feel privileged to have my little Il Baretto in this corner.”
Il Baretto will open Friday October 9. Bookings here.