Bright-coloured pastas, vegan eggs and charcoal-black cocktails – Mark + Vinny’s could easily be a gimmick. Then you learn Adrian Jankuloski (Icebergs, The Dolphin) is in the kitchen, the pastas are house-made or imported from acclaimed pasta-maker Joe Cassaniti (Pepe’s Pasta) and the spritz menu is 50 cocktails deep.
Although the concept is simple – spritz and spaghetti – nothing is expected when Vince Pizzinga and Mark Filippelli (both co-founders at Melbourne’s Matcha Mylkbar) are involved. “Why can't pasta be blue? If it looks blue and it tastes amazing, why not?” says Filippelli. “We want to wow you.”
Almost everything here has a twist. The most obvious is the colour palette. That bright-blue pasta is infused with blue spirulina and tossed with blue swimmer crab and bottarga; another pasta is ink black. If you line up the right selection of spritzes (there are 36 DIY options and a further 18 set recipes) with pasta dishes you can make a mini rainbow. “Sure, these are going to be photographed a lot but what is going to make people come back is that it's delicious,” says Filippelli.
Less obvious is the prominence of plant-based alternatives. Although the menu features a classic ragu and a rib eye, more than half the menu is vegan. The caprese salad is made with soy mozzarella and the zucchini flowers are stuffed with smoked almond curd. That black pasta we mentioned is a vegan carbonara with smoked mushroom “pancetta”, vegan egg and plant-based parmesan. “Mark and my parents are both from Southern Italy. It was only a generation ago when a traditional diet from that part of the world was largely plant based,” says Pizzinga.
Impressively, all the plant-based ingredients are made in-house, with guidance from Matcha Mylkbar’s executive chef Cameron Dening.
Probably the most conservative aspect of Mark + Vinny’s, besides the menu’s few old-school Italian classics such as eggplant parmigiana, is the restaurant’s interior, designed by Vince’s sister, Mari. Barring a neon sign and the bar’s glossy row of Aperol bottles, there’s nothing wild about it.
That doesn’t mean it’s not glitzy. Tables are set with rose-gold cutlery, the bar is a marble-like bleached pine, and the whole space carries the vibe of a high-end cafe. “The biggest thing about this place is that it's somewhere you come to have fun. That's our biggest message; we're going to fly you to the moon and tickle all your senses,” says Pizzinga.
Mark + Vinny’s
52 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9007 7789
Mon to Sat 6pm–11pm