You can instantly tell Secolo Dining isn’t the average CBD Italian joint. The custom-built concrete bars, the leather-backed chairs and the bespoke light fittings are good hints. Then there’s the Neapolitan pizza oven (the same one Da Mario uses), and, if you come at the right time, the production line of people making pasta.
The new restaurant comes from a four-person team that includes chef Mario Izzo; their last project was Vicolo, a CBD cafe. “This is something we've wanted to do for a very long time; to step it up a level in both design and food,” says Tanja Arienzale, one of the owners.
The design, from Renato D'Ettorre, is closer to that of cafes such as Regiment and Paramount Coffee Project than it is to traditional ideas of what an Italian restaurant should look like. “We wanted this to be crisp, open and have a bit of wow factor without being unwelcoming,” says Arienzale.
One of the reasons its owners have kept it so bright and open is to fulfil the all-day-eating brief. The mornings, as described by Izzo, are Italian-Australian fusion. So, instead of bacon and eggs on toast there’s a breakfast plate of prosciutto, Vanella burrata, poached egg and focaccia. There’s also an open sandwich slathered with nduja, charred broccolini and stracciatella, with two eggs on top and a scattering of crunchy almonds.
Later in the day it’s Southern Italian dishes: fastidiously traditional Neapolitan pizza (Secolo will apply for the AVPN) from the wood-fired oven, homemade pastas and a trio of classic mains. If you’re going to try anything from the latter category make it the spanner crab, garlic butter and bottarga rigatoni, a dish popular near Naples. The other must, according to everyone here (including other customers), is the porchetta focaccia, a flat pizza-like bread loaded with suckling pig, grilled eggplant, cos and mayo. Also: Izzo’s immaculately arranged mix of cured salmon, orange, fennel, bottarga and Sardinian flat bread.
From behind the bar there’s a mix of Italian-focused wines, cocktails and a handful of mainly local beers. “Every Friday we'll have a spritz party with umbrellas, a spritz stand and a DJ,” says Arienzale.
161 Castlereagh Street, Sydney
Tue to Fri 6.30am–10pm
Mon to Wed 6.30am–8pm