DOU­BLING DOWN

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Delicious - 20 Bond St, Syd­ney, mat­teosyd­ney.com

AN­THONY HUCKSTEP RE­VIEWS MAT­TEO DOWN­TOWN

NOT every restau­rant can be ground­break­ing or knock your socks off with the best thing you’ve ever put in your pie hole. Those ex­pe­ri­ences are to be savoured, but the best restau­rants are ever re­li­able, con­sis­tently dish­ing up value for the out­lay and re­in­forc­ing the trust they’ve won on each visit.

Mat­teo Down­town (sib­ling of Mat­teo Dou­ble Bay) won’t blow your mind, nor your bud­get, but you can bank on it giv­ing you a con­sis­tent smart-ca­sual Ital­ian en­counter that’s in­spired by the big all-day din­ers found in Rome and Mi­lan, and it’s as de­pend­able as the dawn of a new day. There’s a large bar to get the en­gine started with an aper­i­tivo, al­fresco din­ing, bar seat­ing, in­ti­mate booths and all the the­atre of an open kitchen. There’s a sweet, gen­uine na­ture to the ser­vice and the booze list runs deep – per­haps to draw an arm­bend­ing six o’clock crowd be­fore they board the sar­dine tins home.

On the pans is chef Orazio D’elia, who ex­plores Italy’s south and north on a menu fea­tur­ing an­tipasti, pizza, pasta and more sub­stan­tial mains. But what sets it apart is the moz­zarella bar. A hand­ful of dishes build on the craft of New South Wales pro­ducer La Stella Lat­ticini, its cheeses made and de­liv­ered daily – the pick sees strac­ciatella dot­ted with small, sweet prawns crudo. Among the pasta, al dente squid stars in squidink fre­gola topped with plump mus­sels and grape toma­toes and, al­though my pizza dough is a bit un­der­cooked, the fresh tomato sauce pro­vides a lovely base for the Margherita, sim­ply topped with basil leaves and fior di latte.

Large, split Skull Is­land prawns re­veal their savoury side after mo­ments in the wood-fired oven, ar­riv­ing sprin­kled with bot­targa. Se­condi also in­clude pork cut­let Mi­lanese, rib-eye on the bone and whole snap­per. If you’ve pushed the boat out and just need some­thing dainty to fin­ish, the trio of Si­cil­ian ri­cotta treats – can­noli, cas­satina and a dough­nut – is ideal.

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