Joe Pagliaro says it’s getting harder to go out for a good bowl of pasta without having to drop a chunk of money. He’s not saying it doesn’t exist, but it’s increasingly common to see venues charging more than $25 for it. Add in a drink and a side and you’re unlikely to walk away spending less than a pineapple.
But Pagliaro’s got a plan, and it’s called Peppe’s.
Next month he and Grace Watson will turn 261 Bondi Road, Bondi, into a pasta and gnocchi bar where you can eat for less than $30.
The couple’s last venture was vegan diner Paperbark, one of Broadsheet’s best openings for 2018. They’re also behind Coffee Bondi Beach and Verd, and that plant-based ethos will be brought to this newbie.
It won’t be a cheap red-sauce joint, either. The Peppe’s kitchen will be led by photographer-chef Joel Bennetts (formerly of Three Blue Ducks, the now-closed Pier in Rose Bay and boutique hotel AIR Myoko in Japan). Paperbark head chef Joey Astorga will provide creative back up.
It’ll have 40 seats, one long communal table and a bar for solo diners. “It's not going to be anything snazzy; this isn’t a million-dollar fit-out,” he says.
The chalkboard menu will only be eight items long – just a couple of pastas and gnocchi, one salad, a few sides, bread and one dessert. “If it’s streamlined it can be cheap,” Pagliaro says.
The pastas, all made on-site, will change, but at least one gnocchi will always be available. Wines will be minimal intervention, vegan and mostly local. The exceptions to the local rule will be Italian imports brought in by former Rootstock and Fun Wines maestro Giorgio de Maria.
Ultimately, Pagliaro says he just wants it to be a local restaurant. We hear this a lot, but when the person saying it lives above the restaurant you know he has a vested interest. “I want to create a genuine local experience,” he says. “I think of it like Gigi's Pizzeria; … it always feels like I'm welcome; it doesn't feel pretentious, but the quality is high. It’s genuine.”
Peppe’s is slated to open at 261 Bondi Road, Bondi, in March.