It's been nearly two years since the Fratelli Paradiso clan opened this tiny, candle-lit wine bar just off Oxford Street. In that time, co-owner Giovanni Paradiso says his baby has quietly matured away from the hype and press that many new small bars attract. "It's been a slow burner," he says. With little fuss or fanfare, locals have packed the terrace house-turned-bar every night of the week to revel in the best of Italian culture: good food, good wine and good-lookin' bartenders.
A HALF-HOUR WAIT greets us on a Friday night, but the host is polite and suggests we go across the road to the Paddington Inn until he calls. We've barely downed a cider when the phone buzzes and we're grabbing two seats at the bar. This is where it gets squishy: waiters bump our stools as they rush to and from the kitchen. We feel uncomfortably in the way and try to squeeze closer to the bar.
THE SMALL TABLES upstairs and down are much more comfortable and, as my companion remarks, are perfect for an intimate second or third date. From there, you can peruse the wine and food specials scrawled on a blackboard and canoodle over osso buco. Despite the waiters hurtling past, and this place feeling as though it's the size of an elevator, managers Matt Young and Simone Buffalo have done a great job making it a sleek, organised and lovably tattered Italian nook. Postcards adorn the edges of the bar, daily specials are written on the white tiled walls and men in matching brown aprons work the room with the co-ordination and intensity of an Olympic polo team.
THE STAFF HERE KNOW THEIR WINES inside out. At the bar, I try a fantastic Angiolino Maule cabernet merlot blend on the recommendation of bartender Jed Higgins. Paradiso imports direct from Italy and wines by the glass change almost daily. A thick book lists wines by the bottle – everything from French burgundy to Slovenian rebula. This tiny place moves so fast that the waiters can be brisk and brash at times, but they always have time to talk you through a fine wine or open something on a whim. Just tell them what you want and they'll allow you to sniff, taste and approve.
FOR A COCKTAIL, it's best to go for simple classics. There is no cocktail list but the bottles of Campari above the tiled bar give you an idea of what they do best. An Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda, $17) is whipped up quick smart in a wineglass and the Negroni (gin, vermouth rosso, Campari, $17) is as good as they come.
THE BAR MENU COMPLETES THE PACKAGE. Come here for the food and wine together and you'll leave a happy camper. Unfortunately, the osso buco ($21) is not overly generous, but it does have fresh, flat sheets of pasta interspersed with tender meatballs. A heavy, traditional salsiccia alla griglia spiral sausage with hot English mustard ($18) is offset by a light, fragrant caprese salad ($19). Even the olives ($6) are great. But beware your hip pocket: nothing here is particularly cheap, especially when it's this good and you keep eating your way through the seasonal menu.
EVERY TIME HE WALKS into the bar, Paradiso says a "wave of happiness" comes over him. "It's just such a beautiful place to sit in and drink in and eat in," he says. And I tend to agree.
YOU’LL LOVE IT IF you want a few intimate wines with dinner.
YOU’LL HATE IT IF you have a big group or little time.
GO FOR Italian varietals, Negroni, osso buco.
IT’LL COST YOU wine by the glass $8-$20, cocktails $12-$14, bar food $6-$27.
10 William Street
Address: 10 William Street, Paddington, 9360 3310
Open: Mon-Thu, 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat, noon-midnight
- (02) 9360 3310
- Cuisine - Italian
- Opening Hours - Mon-Thurs 5pm-midnight. Fri-Sat noon-midnight.
- Author - Rachel Olding