Osteria Coogee has quietly opened just off Coogee’s main drag, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs – a project that’s close to the hearts of the local power couple running it.
Chef Regan Porteous (Tequila Mockingbird, Stanton & Co) is the director and Italian native Carolina Angelucci (Toko, Riley Street Garage) is the general manager, and their already-bustling diner is delivering Italian flavours with a distinctly coastal vibe.
“I love the simplicity of Italian food,” says Porteous, who up until now has been known for his innovative takes on Japanese and Mexican cuisine. “The way they bring flavour out of simple dishes, without being fussy. That’s what we wanted to create here: a relaxed atmosphere. Like when you’re lucky enough to be invited to your friend’s Italian family’s house.”
It’s a feeling the chef – whose resume includes Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Gordon Ramsay’s now-closed Maze in London – knows well.
A single bite of a dish prepared by Angelucci’s father in Francavilla al Mare, their coastal hometown east of Rome, led to a culinary epiphany. “It was the first dish Carolina’s father made me at their house when I met him in Italy,” Porteous says. “It was calamari dressed simply with lemon juice and parsley. I just went ‘Woah! What is that?’”
His Coogee-fied version of that fateful crudo – sheets of raw kingfish dotted with black garlic puree, floating in a sea of lemon juice and parsley oil – now headlines Osteria’s seafood-heavy menu. It joins other Italian classics like creamy burrata, truffle-spiked gnocchi and a house-made pappardelle served with lamb shoulder (cooked overnight in lamb fat).
Shared plates range from small bites (such as charred octopus with a textural ‘nduja and slick white-bean puree) to the more sizable Cone Bay barramundi and spatchcock served with caponata (the bird is topped with a still-smouldering bouquet of lightly-torched herbs).
“The menu’s not too large,” Porteous says, “but it has plenty of options.”
For those unable to choose, the sun-filled diner’s “mangia” menu – and the larger “mangiamo” option – leave you in the capable hands of the kitchen. (Both words are derived from the Italian for “eat”.)
This is the 16th venue Porteous has helped open, but it’s the first opening he hasn’t spent in the kitchen. At Osteria Coogee, head chef duties are being fulfilled by Stefano Gagliardi, a childhood friend of Angelucci and fellow Francavilla al Mare native. “We want to nail those key flavours that transport you to Italy, but you can’t do that without an Italian chef in the kitchen,” says Porteous. “Don’t even try.”
Together, Porteous says the team will pay homage to the simplicity of Italian cuisine in a way Coogee locals are hungry for. “We live in Coogee. Other than [Coogee Pavilion], which does great pizzas, there’s not a lot of options here,” he explains. “It’s like Bondi 10 years ago.”
The wine list has been compiled by Binod Shrestha, also formerly of Toko, and features a comfortable mix of highlights from both Italy and Australia. The cocktail list has a similar Italian vibe.
“They are Italian-influenced and seasonally driven,” Porteous says. “As pears come into season, for example, we’re going to have a pear cocktail on the menu.”
The venue also has plans for special monthly dinners, each celebrating the wine and food of one of Italy’s distinct regions.
“There are other people doing amazing and innovative things with Italian food right now,” Porteous says, “but I really wanted to focus and commit to authenticity. There’s so much we can showcase from Italy, so I want to stay true to that. Deliver it with a bit of technique and revive it a little, but nothing too fancy or over the top.
“I think Coogee has been waiting for something like this.”
31 Alfreda Street, Coogee
(02) 9665 6797
Wed to Fri 5pm–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 15, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.