When council issues paused the development of chef Nigel Ward’s Waverley Italian restaurant and bar, Passeggiata, he booked a last-minute research trip to Rome, where he covered 60 kilometres on foot over two days. The act of walking through the streets (specifically after dinner) is part of what the word “passeggiata” refers to, but it’s the attitude of passeggiata that inspired Ward (who formerly owned Sagra) to choose it as the name of his Waverley restaurant. Ward says that passeggiata is really about moving slowly: walking up and down the town square with no purpose other than enjoying life.
That spirit is baked into this two-storey neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar, which also captures the essence of a Roman osteria: refined but unpretentious, comfortable but considered, bustling but intimate. Ward and head chef Ryan Crothers (Uccello) refurbished the space by hand, with creative direction from interior designer Tim Leveson. The bright yellow facade is echoed inside: an exposed-brick arch frames a copper bar, and tan leather benches line the left side beside bright yellow tables. The original ornate 1890s ceilings and staircase that lead to the upstairs dining room have been carefully preserved.
As have Ward and Crothers’ excellent taste in food (Ward’s CV includes Lucio’s, Fratelli Paradiso, Sean’s Panaroma and London heavy hitter Trullo). The pair channel their extensive experience into the menu – which changes weekly while keeping a few staples. Pastas, including Ward’s ricotta ravioli, are made on-site, as is the focaccia, which took Ward and Crothers six months to perfect. Highlights might include pappardelle with braised lamb, a bright dish of asparagus with gorgonzola fonduta and walnuts, and fig-leaf panna cotta.
The entirely Italian wine list comes from head sommelier Dirk Bromley (Pellegrino 2000), who’s been friends with Ward for years. There isn’t a cocktail list as such, but if you ask for an Italian classic, you won’t be disappointed – the bar houses a strong selection of Italian amari. The limoncello is also made in-house, using a method Ward learnt while living on a lemon grove on the Amalfi Coast.
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