Johnny Fontane has a Godfather theme, but don’t expect wall-mounted guns, a pastiche of gangster images and taxidermy horse heads. Instead of being a place that references The Godfather directly, it’s a place where the Mafiosa in any American city might hang out.
That’s where the deep-dish pizza comes in. “Chicago has historically been a Mafioso city; we couldn't find anyone who did it in Sydney. Our chef is from Chicago so the pieces fell into place,” says the bar’s owner, Thomas Derricott. For those unfamiliar, Derricott explains deep-dish pizza is, “prepared in a deep dish so it has the deepness of a pie but the ingredients of a pizza.” Executive chef Cy Gwynne (ex-Cafe Sydney and Longrain), does two styles. There’s one similar to what you’d find in Chicago, with saucy pork and veal meatballs. Then there are a couple of non-traditional choices, with ingredients such as beef mince and kalamata olives; mushrooms, zucchini and eggplant; and pesto-marinated chicken with salami. All are extra cheesy.
They’re all filling, but not excessively hearty.
There’s also pork-belly arancini, meatballs, an antipasti plate, a pasta (a house-made tagliatelle with artichoke hearts, fried capers and pesto), and cannoli or gelato for dessert.
Andy Curtis (Bear Bar), Johnny Fontane’s other owner, has designed a cocktail-focused list mixing Italian and American classics. There are four Negronis and a few innovations, such as the Flamingo with Amaretto, white-chocolate liqueur, strawberry liqueur, strawberry puree and crème fraîche. There’s also an interesting beer selection with brews from Jamaica, Italy, the US and Surry Hills.
The space, designed by Belinda Cendron (Shady Pines, Baxter Inn), is split into two suitably dim indoor areas. The first, a bar with records on the wall, plays ’50s and ’60s jazz and opens onto the street. The second, upstairs, is a casual dining room. There’s also a Sicilian-inspired courtyard and a pre-revolution-Cuba-themed rooftop lounge. The latter is where the bar serves its most intriguing menu item: a trio of cigars; there’ll always be two Cuban cigars and one rotating special. At the moment, it’s Nicaraguan. “The wooden floorboards, the original bar downstairs, the structure of this place really spoke to me about the shady venues from The Godfather. That's how I latched onto the idea of Johnny Fontane,” says Derricott.