While Sydney’s Little Italy has been thriving forever, Sydney’s latest Italian venues are taking the age-old cuisine with a modern approach. Techniques are being borrowed from elsewhere to push pizza and pasta into new territory. While there’s always a place in our hearts for the old, here are the new.
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Mezzanio is hidden above Danks Street Produce Merchants in Waterloo. The concept is similar to yum cha, but at a slower, more relaxed pace. Sit back with a strawberry Aperol Spritz and choose from the roving marble-benched carts. You may go for anchovies on toast, meatballs or whatever else Riccardo Interdonato (ex chef at Melbourne’s famed Grossi Florentino) decides to cook with the produce from the market below.
Shuk and Salt Meats Cheese have joined to open Popina Kitchen in Circular Quay. Executive chef and director German Sanchez (former head chef at Shuk) brings influences from Argentina and Israel to his Italian cooking. There’s lamb-kofta pizza; tahini pizza; zucchini pizza; and beef empanadas. Bar manager Hamish Dowie (Palmer & Co. and Ananas) has designed the cocktail list. Try the Mediterranean Garden with olive-infused Beefeater gin, rosemary and thyme.
Co-owned by Paolo Pirinya and Lek Pirinya (also the head chef), Grolla is not strictly Italian. Asian influences are present and smoke is at the centre of each dish. It’s hard to define, but that’s what makes it special. From smoked-duck breasts decorated with dollops of ricotta, to mascarpone semifreddo with a mango-and-lime-curd centre.
If you’re searching for authentic, uncorrupted Italian food, Entrata is it. The Pagano family (behind the popular Bel Fiore wood-fired pizza restaurant) has opened this eatery in Glenhaven’s Hills District. You’ll find everything from handmade ravioli to a blue-eye-cod parcel with vongole, prawns and cherry tomatoes. The design is rustic and homey with live music every Sunday afternoon.
The owner at La Bufala, Nicholas Sottile, says that if it were up to him he would only be serving pizza at his new Mascot restaurant. Why? The pizza is good enough to stand on its own; the bases give every slice a wet, floppy texture. It’s the perfect consistency to soak up all the sauce. The pizza is complex, with a charcoal finish. Our pick is the genovese, covered in blobs of fior di latte, potato, pork sausages and pesto. But Sottile knows he needs to offer more to appeal to the masses. You’ll also find grilled fish, homemade pastas and focaccias on the menu.
A new local in Rose Bay, I Maccheroni gets close to nonna’s cooking. Bread is baked in-house, pastas are prepared daily and the menu rotates around seasonal produce. Dine at the single, long communal table in the small, sunlit space on a plate of spinach tortelli with burnt butter, crisp sage and parmesan.
While not a restaurant, this new Italian food truck deserves an honorable mention. Created by Simone Medri and Giuseppe Valletta, piada is the game here. It’s a dense flatbread covered in meat and cheese and folded like a taco. Fillings rotate but a highlight has been the stracchino (a young cow’s-milk cheese) with rocket and Prosciutto di Parma. The duo hopes to make some of its own cured meats and cheese in the future.