Popina is special for Shuk’s head chef German Sanchez and Salt Meats Cheese directors Stefano de Blasi and Edoardo Perlo. It’s a product of their friendship.
“I became really good friends with German back in Milan where he was working. I moved to Australia, German came two years later. I live around the corner from Shuk and became a regular, visiting German, becoming friends with the owners,” says de Blasi.
Its opening is based on the belief Australia is ready for this combination of cuisines, according to Shuk’s director Erez Becker. There are spices and labneh alongside ancient-grain pastas and wood-fire pizza. There’s one with fig, goat’s cheese, lamb and labneh.
“We came up with the concept first, then the menu, then it all just grew, ”says de Blasi.
Located in the new Gateway Building with views over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Popina will open mid-October. “It’s the perfect location for us,” de Blasi says about the two-level restaurant that will seat 200, include a large cocktail bar, have a rotating wood-fire oven and a rooftop bar.
The idea for a large establishment came from the pair’s travels to New York. “The rooftop of Italy was a big inspiration. It’s a big food market where you can buy the best Italian ingredients, with a rooftop restaurant with people sharing pizza and tapas.” Unlike the family-orientated Shuk and Salt Meats Cheese, Popina will “get people working in the city who can come down and share a meal during the week. On weekends, big groups of friends can come together for a night out.”
The interior will include marble finishes, earthy neutrals and delicate gold detail throughout. “It sounds weird,” de Blasi laughs. “It’s a very clean fit-out so people focus on the food, the colours of the food are amazing.”
The restaurant will be open every day from 10am to 10pm. The 150-person rooftop will be open until midnight. The rooftop bar will host local DJs every night, decadent cocktails and a barbeque-inspired menu to accompany the views.
Popina is slated to open October 15