Pino’s Vino e Cucina looks classic in an old-world European way, almost like Hubert, but more subtle. Inside you’ll see sport shorts, thongs and kids. That’s the kind of restaurant it is: elegant but ultimately relaxed.

“We really want to have a place dedicated to locals,” says Diane McDonald, one of the owners along with fellow former Blackstar Pastry manager Matteo Margiotta. Together they do a bit of everything; McDonald more on the floor, Margiotta in the kitchen (with head chef Matteo Boschiero Preto). “We didn't use a designer at all. Matteo did most of the structural work himself,” says McDonald. The final product replaces the white-washed walls of the old pizza shop with bare brick sporadically adorned with Italian scenes, worn but charming wooden fittings and a long bar.

The menu is in sync with the mood; not strictly traditional but certainly Italian in philosophy and style. “It's not modern, more Pino's twist on classics,” says McDonald. Rather than the usual rockmelon, buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto are paired with grilled peaches; the homemade tonnarelli (like a thick spaghetti) – stacked with soft, saucy mussels – has bite and gusto; the tortelloni – stuffed with a mousse-like mix of mushrooms and topped with Genovese walnut pesto – is oddly light. A trifle-like dessert has well-proportioned layers of strawberry-and-champagne granita, cream and fruit.

The bar will be headed by Antonello Arzedi. “We want [the drinks list] to be Italian plus some others, like the white sangria and Reverse Sake [a crushed-ice drink like granita],” he says. The mostly organic wine list mixing local and Italian bottles is McDonald’s domain. Like all good restaurants these days, the bar and kitchen will work in tandem, using each other’s waste and pairing up on flavours, Arzedi says.

Pino’s Vino e Cucina
199 Lawrence Street, Alexandria
(02) 9550 2789

Tue to Sat 5pm–12pm
Sun 5pm–10pm