Many Sydneysiders will remember Don Peppino’s, a much-loved Italian pop-up in the Grand Pacific Blue Room in Paddington. The team behind it – comprising old friends Daniel Johnston, Ivey Wawn and Harry Levy – are back together at Fontana, another love letter to rustic, regional Italian cuisine.

Johnston’s menu has a classic Italian layout, spanning regional snacks, a handful of pastas and main dishes all driven by seasonal produce. You might start with a pitch-perfect Martini, some house-made focaccia and polpette di sarde – a plate of sardine “meatballs” with currants and pine nuts in a rich tomato sugo.

Pastas might include paccheri (a wide tube pasta) served with a rich kangaroo ragu; and a signature ceci e tria, a chickpea pasta hailing from the southern Italian city of Lecce and an old favourite on the menu at Don Peppino’s.

For dessert, think fried Sardinian sweets (“sebada”) filled with ricotta and pecorino, and topped with honey and fennel seeds. Or a simple pistachio gelato that’s worth coming back for. Filter coffee from Mecca, a little nocino (walnut liqueur), and a selection of biscotti are a classic end to the meal.

The tight wine list by Wawn curates natural drops from around the world. And rather than having a house wine, expect friendly pricepoints in each colour. There's also a focus on lesser-known aperitifs and digestifs including armagnac, sherries and liqueurs.

Taking over the space previously home to Ron’s Upstairs (and before that, beloved Thai eatery Pron Prohm), Fontana is decked out with Sydney hospo history. Tables come from Vini via Don Peppino’s, and many of the chairs are upcycled from Arthur in Surry Hills. Chanel Tobler, the artist whose works hang on the walls, also worked at Don Peppino’s. A vibrant mural painted by Wawn’s sister, Claudia Wawn, wraps the walls and ceiling all the way up the entry's classic, red-carpeted staircase.

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Updated: August 25th, 2022

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