Ital­ian cook­ing is be­ing reimag­ined at a new gen­er­a­tion of boundary-push­ing restau­rants.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

The rules of great Ital­ian food are fairly straight­for­ward. Qual­ity ingredient­s, treated sim­ply and with re­spect.And while play­ing by the rules makes win­ners of many, in the past year, a new wave of en­ve­lope-push­ing ea­ter­ies are redefin­ing, yet again, our take on la vera cucina. In Syd­ney, judg­ing by the restau­rant names, it’s a God­fa­ther-like crew – Al­berto! Peppe! Totti! Don! – all rolling pasta to their own beat. While in Mel­bourne, more es­tab­lished play­ers are mak­ing a case for old-school food and hospi­tal­ity, with new-school brio.


Chef Daniel Pep­perell is king of ‘ish’. He put XO with snails at Hubert (Fren­chish). Pick­led, crumbed and fried sar­dines for katsu sando at 10 Wil­liam St (Ital­ian-Asian-ish). And now, rock­ing the pans at Al­berto’s in the back­streets of Surry Hills, you’re as likely to find garam masala and fenu­greek in his trippa alla Ro­mana as you are tomato and pecorino.As Syd­ney’s come to ex­pect from the team be­hind Hubert, The Bax­ter Inn et al, there’s as much rol­lick­ing fun to be found on Andy Tyson’s Italo-nat­u­ral wine list as what’s on the plate. He makes a glass of Radikon and a can­noli, piped-to-or­der with whipped but­ter­milk ri­cotta sound like the best idea you’ve had all night.


Don’t leave, Don Peppino’s. We know you’re semi-per­ma­nent be­cause that’s the way things roll with Full Cir­cle, the restau­rant col­lec­tive of chefs Daniel John­ston and Harry Levy, and man­ager Tom Mer­ry­weather, but we wish you’d stay. There’s fun to be had here in an old night­club on Ox­ford Street. Hand­made and ex­truded pasta reigns supreme.

Dishes such as ri­cotta ravi­oli with wal­nut sauce and Puglian cece e tria, fresh and fried pasta with chick­peas, were in­spired by the trio’s re­search trip across Italy. Our pick of the drinks?

The Bianco Peppino, a wine the team crushed by foot with vint­ner Tr­ish Nel­son, of Gazzetta wines in Lazio.


The cheesier the bet­ter? Not if you ask the team at Peppe’s, a new ve­gan pasta bar in Bondi. “Ital­ian food is not as heavy on the meat and cheese as peo­ple think,” says co-owner Grace Wat­son.As with its sib­ling, Pa­per­bark in Water­loo, the menu is less about ve­gan sub­sti­tutes and more about keep­ing it sim­ple.The white sauce for gnoc­chi bianchi, for in­stance, is a cau­li­flower purée cooked in a porcini and gar­lic stock; the pasta is fin­ished with pan­grat­tato and crisp sage leaves in place of parme­san.


Snag a ta­ble un­der the olive tree in Totti’s court­yard and you could imag­ine you’re en­joy­ing an Ital­ian sum­mer. Here, chefs Mike Eg­gert (of Pin­bone fame) and Khan Da­nis (ex-Rock­pool) dish out wood-fired bread to go with the bright likes of mor­tadella, ’nduja and whipped ri­cotta and pap­pardelle with lamb ragù. Chick­ens are brined, smoked and roasted in the wood-fired oven to tasty ef­fect. And pray the not-so-Ital­ian ‘Neapoli­tan’ ice-cream sand­wiches are on.



Chef Casey Wall is a North Carolina na­tive so there’s plenty of Italo-Amer­i­can red-sauce flavour. Wall cooks 48-hour fer­mented piz­zas in an elec­tric oven and tops deep-dish ‘Grandma pies’ with the sim­ple likes of toma­toes, gar­lic and mar­jo­ram. Among the smart cock­tails is a clar­i­fied milk punch with lady-fin­gers, cof­fee and rum. Sound fa­mil­iar? It’s the tiramisù to have when you’re too full for tiramisù.


Dress up. Di Sta­sio Città, the re­turn by art-lov­ing restau­ra­teur Ri­naldo ‘Ron­nie’ Di Sta­sio to Mel­bourne’s CBD af­ter three decades, is worth cel­e­brat­ing. Città is big and bold in mood and menu. St Kilda’s sig­na­ture foil-wrapped af­ter-school sand­wich, the merenda, has made the jour­ney to the city, along with the mini milk buns with mor­tadella.The day’s pasta might be spaghet­tone, cooked on point, with tomato and guan­ciale.The old-school glam­our is aided and abet­ted by maître d’ Mal­lory Wall, who has been with Di Sta­sio for nearly 20 years.


For­mer DOC owner Tony Ni­col­ini has put ev­ery­thing from pear toma­toes from Abruzzo to sus­tain­able pizza flour from Veneto on an al­tar. His new sa­lumi and pizza joint, Ital­ian Ar­ti­sans, is an even more con­sid­ered show­case of pro­duc­ers he re­spects. “It’s more than a love of food,” he says. “It’s a love of craft.” Slow pizza, as he calls it, is the heart of the menu: a style made from al­ter­na­tive grains from cen­tral and south­ern Italy. “It can make you feel good, not guilty.”


Lupo, a cosy mod-Ital­ian diner, is the lat­est from chef Scott Pick­ett. Oc­cu­py­ing the for­mer Saint Crispin site, it’s an eatery in­spired by Ital­ian flavours but not gov­erned by them. “We’re be­ing pretty lib­eral with the names and terms,” says Pick­ett. Gnocco fritto – “not like your nonna used to make” – comes filled with roasted gar­lic foam and smoth­ered with parme­san. A span­ner­crab lasagne, from head chef Char­lie Wat­son, sees basil pasta layered with scal­lop, crab, fin­ger lime and cel­tuce. Get your fill of Ital­ian recipes – clas­sic, modern and mash-ups – at de­li­


NEW OR­DER Clock­wise from top left: an­tipasti at Al­berto’s; in­te­ri­ors of Lupo and Di Sta­sio Città; the court­yard at Totti’s re­plete with olive tree.

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