Newport has a new restaurant, Sotto Sopra, which means “upside down” in Italian. Some may guess that implies they’re turning Italian cuisine on its head but that’s not the case at all, quite the opposite. The cuisine tweaks here are scarce and subtle. Sotto Sopra is serving old-school trattoria fare.

“[It’s called that] because of the building area; the power and plumbing has to be 1.5 metres high or above. So, upside down because the kitchen and the bar are upstairs and the seating is downstairs. The food is nothing too radical, it’s quite traditional,” says Ormeggio and Sotto Sopra chef Alessandro Pavoni, who’s joined in the Newport restaurant by Ormeggio’s Bill Drakopoulos (co-owner), Victor Moya (consulting chef) and Mattia Rossi (head chef).

At the centre of the kitchen and the menu is an imported Italian wood-fired oven. Unusually, this one isn’t for pizza. Instead there’s chicken cacciatore baked in a cast-iron pan, an enormous 1.2 kilo Wagyu Fiorentina steak with roast potatoes, and an Italian seafood chowder done in a terracotta pot, covered in puff pastry. “It’s amazing. When you break the pie, the pastry goes inside the chowder,” says Pavoni.

In typical trattoria fashion, Pavoni and his team will be making everything in house, including a chickpea bread they stuff with salted cod as well as a quartet of fresh pastas, including a ravioli filled with ox tail and topped with pine nuts, sultanas, butter and sage. As you’d expect from the same team that runs Ormeggio, there are a few innovations. The ravioli is dusted in cocoa powder; sardine spaghetti is intensified with black garlic; and dessert serves up a wood-fired mango tart with lime gelato. “We will always try to do something new but this isn’t fine dining, we want to make sure everything is affordable,” says Pavoni.

The space is the biggest departure from the traditional casual eateries of Italy. “It's amazing, quite modern and industrial. You can see the bottom of the kitchen from underneath. All the pipes and the electric,” says Pavoni. The wines on the other hand are purely Italian and due to a Coravin (a tool that seals opened wine bottles) they are mostly available by the glass. “We want it to be like Italy but on the Northern Beaches,” Pavoni says.

Sotto Sopra
G04 The Palms, 316–324 Barrenjoey Road, Newport
(02) 9997 7009

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