After a weekend in Melbourne sampling the culinary delights of Lygon Street, I find myself bemoaning the lack of good Italian restaurants and Italian cuisine in Sydney over espressos with a colleague.
‘Are you serious?’ He demands, hands slamming down on the table, his reaction so energetic the coffees wobble dangerously.
I nod, perplexed, and he leans towards me as if he’s about to share a huge secret. Which he is.
Anthony Angelo Capuzza, a Sydneysider of Napoletano heritage, informs me that I’m grossly uneducated on the Italian food scene in Sydney. Italian is the city’s unofficial second cuisine, with many of Sydney’s best high-end eateries heavily influenced by Italy. However, good, affordable pizzerias and pastas are trickier to find, with offerings lacking that welcoming ambience reminiscent of lazy Tuscan afternoons. ‘When you eat Italian food, you should feel loved, not cramped,’ Anthony advises. As a connoisseur of Italian cucina, he generously shares with us the restaurants he considers to be fighting it out to be the best Italian restaurant in Sydney. Buon Appetito!
01. Baccomatto Osteria, Surry Hills
This is a Surry Hills favourite. The sleek, marble bar-come-centrepiece, and moody lighting invokes a NYC vibe, whilst the menu is full of standout dishes and varies often enough to keep things interesting. There are delicious Bellini cocktails on offer as well. It’s worth noting that apart from a selection of imported cheeses and salami made by Pino’s Dolce Vita in Kogarah, nearly everything is made ‘in casa.’ The decadent Tiramisu is a must-have for dessert.
02. Little Sicily, Leichhardt
Leichhardt was the original Italian hotspot in Sydney from the 70’s until the late 90’s. Restaurants here are traditional, with red and white checked tablecloths and hearty portions of freshly made pasta. The vibe of the area may be a little tacky but there are some serious culinary gems lurking here. Little Sicily serves authentic Sicilian cuisine, much cheaper than some Surry Hills options. Try the most expensive bottle of wine, Brunello Di Montalcino – extremely well priced.
If you’re not in the mood to go out but still fancy some delicious pasta check out Delish’s list of 45 yummy pasta recipes here
03. Da Mario, Rosebery
Da Mario Italian restaurant has a colourful history. Originally named Pizza Mario, after moving to a new fit out in Darlinghurst they were lauded as one of the first Vera Pizza certified pizza places in Sydney. Since then they closed due to tax reasons (awkward yet fitting from an Italian restaurant). Their sister restaurant Da Mario still stands and is worth the drive to Rosebery. Their rich and hearty tagliatelle ragu Bolognese is a winner if you’re in the mood for pasta.
04. Vacanza Pizzeria, Bronte
A bustling and happening cheap eat up the hill from Bronte beach, which has Napoli-style pizza and makes its own, creamy Burrata. There aren’t many cheap eats in Bronte, so this is worth checking out. It is also one of the rare Sydney restaurants which is BYO. Try the $40 a head set menu, plentiful with delicious Italian antipasti and plenty of pizza. They also have a sister restaurant of the same name in Surry Hills.
05. Machiavelli, CBD
This CBD institution isn’t cheap, with pastas priced at $40+ and a fantastic wine list, but it’s one of the rare places in Sydney offering the white tablecloth, fine-dining experience which Italians do so well. The attention to detail and delicious dishes arguably makes this fine dining option the best Italian restaurant in Sydney. The Machiavelli experience so closely embodies a classic Italian restaurant in Rome even regular diners forget where they are. Anthony smiles conspiratorially, ‘it’s always a shock to find yourself on Clarence Street after a great power lunch and a bottle or two of Chianti.’
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