Next-level focaccia by the slice, classic pastas from Naples and Sicily, and a largely Italian wine list are pulling in the crowds at a new eatery in Darlinghurst. Fortuna Drink & Eat is the creation of restaurateur George Nahas and chef Egon Marzaioli, who worked together for more than eight years at Romolo in the Strand Arcade.

“We chose this name, which means ‘luck’ in Italian, because we believe you make your own luck – by working hard,” Marzaioli tells Broadsheet.

Since opening right before Christmas, Fortuna has been doing a roaring trade. That’s particularly true on Sunday mornings, when locals stream in for house-made sourdough crumpets – served savoury, with eggs and bacon, or sweet, with yuzu curd and fresh fruit – or the Hash Benedict (house-made hash browns, free-range poached eggs, wild greens and hollandaise with bacon, prosciutto di Parma or wild smoked salmon). Coffee is made with beans from Gypsy Espresso, which Nahas co-owns.

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But the real winner here is the focaccia by the slice. Marzaioli, who grew up in Naples with a Neapolitan father and Sicilian mother, has been helping to make focaccia since he was a kid.

“It takes two days to make the dough,” he says. “When you eat it, it should be soft and airy inside, like a spider’s web, but crusty on the outside.”

On top of pursuing this ideal texture, Marzaioli is experimenting with flavoured dough. So far he’s tried turmeric and beetroot, and toppings such as the Sbagliata (fior di latte, basil pesto, pomodoro sauce) and the Bella (Wagyu bresaola carpaccio, parmigiano cream, mixed leaves). He’s also working on a sweet banana version.

Mains include three types of pasta – the standout being the traditional spaghettone with garlic, fermented chilli, olive dust, bread crumb and optional whipped ricotta – as well as snapper with kombu butter and green-olive tapanade. For a lighter option, there’s the antipasto board with your choice of “seacuterie”, charcuterie and/or burrata.

And for something sweet, we recommend Marzaioli’s fresh take on the tiramisu. Layers of freshly dipped, crunchy biscotti are weaved with whipped marscarpone, shredded coconut, cocoa nibs and sour grapefruit.

But it’s not just the menu that counts at Fortuna. Equally important, Marzaioli says, is creating an atmosphere that’s fun and welcoming. The chef spends a lot of time on the floor talking to the guests, finding out what they like and suggesting or even designing dishes for them. The same goes for sommelier and restaurant manager Brenden Kanikevich (ex-Lola’s), who says the wine list follows a simple principle. “If I don’t want to drink it, I don’t want you to buy it. Every wine on the list is great, and while it’s diverse, it’s also approachable. I like to speak with the guests, find out what they usually drink, and recommend a wine that suits their tastes.”

The mostly Italian wine list includes Corvezzo Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Da Vinci Rosso di Montalcino from Tuscany and Coeur de Cardeline Grenache from Piedmont.

In keeping with their ethos, Marzaioli and Nahas gave the space a bright makeover with designer David Deksler. Green-and-white tiling and pendant lighting are mixed with light timbers and pastel cushions. Large concertina windows help create an indoor-outdoor feel, and there’s seating for around 60 people in Thonet chairs and cosy banquettes.

“We really want people to feel welcome,” says Marzaioli. “We want them to feel that the service is friendly, and that they can come here and stay for as long or as short as they like. We have lots of laughs and sometimes we get a bit loud, but we are Italian.”

Fortuna
247 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
0431 791 424

Hours:

Mon &Tue 7am–3pm
Wed to Sun 7am–10pm

fortunasydney.com
@fortuna_drinkandeat