According to its pastry chef Rocco Speranza, “The Sawmill is the big Italian heart of West Pymble.” Built on the site of an old timber mill, the space honours the heritage of its Italian owners, Domenico and Susan Murdocca and head chef Ruben Castellaz, as well as Pymble’s history as a timber-producing area in the 1800s.
The Sawmill’s dining room has recycled-wood features and exposed brick. The warm space is also a stage for Speranza’s impromptu performances.
When the mood strikes, the pastry chef emerges from the kitchen and belts out a favourite aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto in his impressive tenor. It’s an experience that transports guests to the Bay of Napoli, where Speranza grew up and studied opera.
Although his voice is good enough to have secured him a contract with Opera Australia, Speranza is also an excellent pastry chef; his specialty is the rum baba, a rum-syrup-soaked sponge cake.
He describes childhood outings with his mum to a traditional pastry shop; its aroma of rum syrup filled the ancient passageways of Naples’s city centre. From his first taste of that cake, Speranza’s future was written. “Rum baba, it’s my pride. It’s a dessert that belongs very close to me,” he says.
At lunch the Italian influence is subdued. Pastas sit alongside the Sawmill Burger and the pulled-pork sandwich, both served with truffle and chive chips. At night there are antipasto dishes and updated regional Italian fare. Pizzas are wood fired; gnocchi is handmade, served with scarmoza cheese and hazelnuts; and lamb shank is slow-cooked and served with polenta and porcini mushrooms.
Coffee is roasted in house, and the selection of wine and cocktails is chosen to cut through the hearty menu. As for an accompaniment for the rum baba, Speranza says, “Really a coffee wouldn’t go so well. A sweeter passito wine would be better.” Or maybe a song would be best.
7 Duneba Avenue, West Pymble
(02) 9498 6565
Mon to Wed & Thu 7am–3.30pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 7am–3.30pm, 5.30pm–10.30pm
Sun 8am–3pm, 5.30pm–9pm