Matteo Zamboni didn’t plan to stick around in this city. But after working at Ormeggio and Pilu at Freshwater, he realised he should plant his roots here.
“I kept thinking, day after day, that this was the place that I wanted to have my own restaurant,” he says. “I love the mentality of people when they go out. They’re very open to try things.”
That mentality inspired the newly opened Zambo, at the former Marque site. The carpeted restaurant features a long leather banquette and subtle design elements, such as pendant lighting, potted succulents and the marble-sided bar. Dishes are illuminated by candlelight.
Zambo marries innovative technique with Italian ingredients and recipes. “Tradition is what we grow up with and changing it a little bit keeps the traditional recipe alive,” Zamboni says.
Choose between a four- or six-course menu. First, the amuse-bouche. Tiny fried pies are best cut in half before being tackled by fingers, to avoid the heat of the steaming, sweet red sauce and mozzarella chunk inside. The farfalle pasta is fried to a crisp, frosted with paprika and served with aioli. It’s followed by squares of dense and oily focaccia, made by Al Taglio’s Enrico Sgarbossa.
Then the first course: perhaps smoked trout on top of a beetroot reduction and topped with popped grains; or a half-globe of balsamic-soaked red onion, filled with a dollop of eggplant ricotta.
Pasta comes as fat pouches of capsicum ravioli or cylinders of rigatoni (the latter served with a pecorino foam and a plastic bag of sprinkle-it-yourself pork-cheek mince). A lemon-myrtle dashi elevates a fillet of mulloway, but it’s the wilted, burnt radicchio bulb that’s worth making room for: it’s delicate and sweet.
The wine list is made up of mostly Italian drops. The sparkling wine from Provincia di Brescia (Zamboni’s home turf) enjoys a dedicated page to itself.
4-5/355 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8937 3599
Thurs–Sat, 12pm–3pm and 6pm–11pm