When council issues paused the development of chef Nigel Ward’s new restaurant, Passeggiata, he booked a last-minute research trip to Rome, where he covered 60 kilometres on foot over two days. The act of walking through the streets (specifically after dinner) is part of what the word “passeggiata” refers to, but it’s the attitude of passeggiata that inspired Ward to choose it as the name of his new Waverley restaurant.

“Passeggiata is about moving slowly: walking up and down the town square with no purpose other than enjoying life,” Ward, who formerly owned Sagra in Darlinghurst, tells Broadsheet. Ward’s passionate approach to Italian dining at Sagra drew accolades from visitors expecting a humble neighbourhood trattoria and finding beautifully executed pasta and other Italian classics. His CV includes two classic Sydney Italian joints: Lucio’s and Fratelli Paradiso, as well as Sean’s Panaroma and London heavy hitter Trullo.

The neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar, housed in a two-storey terrace, captures the essence of a Roman osteria: refined but unpretentious, comfortable but considered, bustling but intimate. Ward and head chef Ryan Crothers (Uccello) refurbished the space by hand, with creative direction from interior designer Tim Leveson. The bright yellow facade is echoed inside: an exposed-brick arch frames a copper bar, and tan leather benches line the left side beside bright yellow tables. The original ornate 1890s ceilings have been carefully preserved, as has the staircase which leads to the upstairs dining room.

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Guests can expect weekly changes to the menu based on what’s in abundance at the time, but a few dishes will remain as staples. Pastas, including Ward’s ricotta ravioli, are made on-site, as is the focaccia, which took Ward and Crothers six months to perfect. Current highlights include pappardelle with braised lamb, a bright spring dish of asparagus with gorgonzola fonduta and walnuts, and fig-leaf panna cotta.

The entirely Italian wine list comes from head sommelier Dirk Bromley (Pellegrino 2000), who’s been friends with Ward for years. There isn’t a cocktail list as such, but if you ask for an Italian classic, you won’t be disappointed – the bar houses a strong selection of Italian amari.

The limoncello is also made in-house, using a method Ward learnt while living on a lemon grove on the Amalfi Coast. The time Ward spent living and cooking in Italy – from making cheese on a goat farm in Tuscany to producing salami in Piedmont – has informed his approach to cooking, which harnesses Italian techniques and flavours without being confined to a regionally specific style.

Ward’s main influence is “cucina povera” (“peasant food”) – simple, seasonal food that elevates readily available ingredients. At Passeggiata, fresh seafood is washed in seawater from the beach at the end of the street, and seasonal vegetables are cooked in leftover whey from the house-made ricotta. While the recipes are Italian, the produce is as local as possible, with meat from local butcher Feather & Bone and produce from Frank’s Fruit Market in Haberfield.

Next year, Ward plans to host Tuscan-style long lunches in the garden on the north-east side of the building, and the wine list will keep growing as Ward and Bromley continue their Italian wine odyssey. For now, though, they’re taking it one step at a time, and enjoying the journey – in true passeggiata fashion.

318 Bronte Road, Waverley
(02) 9184 7747

Tue to Thu & Sat 6pm–11pm
Fri midday–11pm