Fratelli Fresh has opened its eighth and biggest location yet – a 550-seat food emporium at Darling Harbour. Similar to the Grounds of Alexandria in terms of sheer scale and the variety of dining options, the new space is huge.

There’s a breakfast bar, a pizzeria serving crisp-bottomed Roman pizzas, a fresh-pasta bar and a rotisserie shop cooking porchetta and lamb shoulder. A Campari bar serves cocktails, while a beer and wine garden outside seats 150 people comfortably. The neighbourly, casual-Italian dining that Fratelli Fresh is known for runs throughout.

For dessert choose from one of 15 flavours at the gelato bar – try Snickerone or caramelised fig and mascarpone – or head to the dessert bar and cioccolateria for tiramisu and handmade truffles.

“This is the flagship for the brand,” says Urban Purveyor Group (UPG) CEO Thomas Pash. The group, formerly Urban Purveyor Group, is backed by Quadrant Private Equity. Urban Purveyor Group acquired Fratelli Fresh in April 2016, and Neil Perry’s Rockpool Group in November 2016, after which it rebranded to Rockpool Dining Group.

The Darling Harbour location is part of Rockpool’s rapid expansion strategy. Since the acquisition, Rockpool has doubled Fratelli Fresh’s stores, with plans to open two more this year: one on the Manly pier and one in Chatswood.

Is it possible to grow quickly and still honour the food? Pash thinks so. “We’re growing fast, but we never compromise on quality or our ability to execute. Whatever brand it is, we want it to be the best in class. We’re big, but we live and breathe by the motto ‘one restaurant at a time’,” he says.

Fratelli Fresh has opened under the International Convention Centre at a time when Darling Harbour is experiencing a culinary renaissance. There’s Barangaroo at the north end of the harbour, and the Darling Quarter precinct is still mid-construction. Cult food brands, such as Belles Hot Chicken and 8bit Burger, have already moved in.

“We’re really excited about the location. The area is growing quickly; there’s a lot of corporate customers and tourists, and Darling Quarter has opened the corridor between here and Haymarket,” says Pash. “We’re going to get 20 to 25 million people walking past our door.”

How catering to tourists and corporates meshes with Fratelli Fresh’s image as an Italian neighbourhood restaurant is unclear, but Pash is confident it will work. “When we bought Fratelli Fresh it was a distressed business, but in the last few years it’s proven itself resilient and we’re really happy about the brand.

“Neil and I are in this thing for the long haul.”

Fratelli Fresh
Tenancy 2, 14 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour
(02) 9259 5600

Daily 7am–12am

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 30, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.