Crab-meat-stuffed squid-ink tortellini is on the menu at Sala, a new harbourside Italian restaurant designed for lingering. It’s a dish executive chef Danny Russo first served in 2001 at L’Unico in Balmain, and then put on the menu at Lo Studio in Surry Hills and The Beresford.

“The site was just screaming at us to do something we could be proud of,” Russo tells Broadsheet. He’s worked with the Dedes Waterfront Group (Flying Fish, Deckhouse) to open Sala in the heritage-listed former home of Flying Fish and Chuuka, at the end of Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont.

“It’s in a world-class location on the water, with beautiful views, in one of the best cities in the world.”

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There’s plenty to like beyond the tortellini, which comes lathered in a roast tomato, lemon and caper sauce. Russo is also serving crisp risoni fingers with parmesan, which are topped in a layer of caviar. Then there’s Sala’s Piemontese Hazelnut, a hazelnut-shaped dessert inspired by Ferrero Rocher and Nutella. Made with chocolate from Jessica Pedemont’s Chocolate Artisan in Haberfield, it’s a nod to head chef Michael Lewis’s time spent living and working in Piedmont, Italy, which is famous for the nut. And the creamy burrata with cherry ’nduja is set to be a winner.

“It’s quintessential modern Italian food, in that it’s very much Italian in spirit and in cooking techniques, but with the expanded pantry of whatever amazing produce Australia has to offer,” says Russo. “We have very close relationships with our suppliers, and the menu will evolve according to what nature dictates.”

Similarly, the drinks menu features Italian classics, including “very good Negronis” and Amari sours, plus signature cocktails inspired by the Aussie coast. Among bar manager Behzad Vaziri’s (Intercontinental Sydney) creations are the Oyster Shell Martini, combining Never Never Oyster Shell gin with three oils (pine nut, basil and olive), and the Mediterranean Slide, a concoction of mastika (a Mediterranean liqueur), limoncello, egg white and basil.

Keen to keep the focus on the food, the service and the harbour, Russo and the Dedes family, in collaboration with creative agency The General Store, decided to keep the design simple. The building’s century-old dark timber contrasts with touches of white clay, stone and marble. “We wanted to complement the view, not fight against it,” says Russo.

Ultimately, Russo’s aim is to ensure Sala lives up to its name. “Sala means ‘Welcome to our room,’” he says. “This means being very hospitable. In the sense that you welcome people into your house, we’re welcoming people into our dining room.

“When you go out for a meal, your only concern should be whether your friends will arrive on time, because you should know that the food, the service and everything else is going to be on point. It’s our duty to make sure of that. That’s what the hospitality industry is all about.”

Suit 62–64 Jones Bay Wharf, 26–32 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont
(02) 9817 4618

Wed to Sat midday–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Sun midday–4pm