Making you happy makes them happy: Tappo Osteria, Pyrmont. Photo: Steven Siewert
Biotechnology will one day sequence the DNA of Italian restaurateurs and discover they have something extra: the hospitality gene. It's why they greet you loudly as if expecting you. Why they kiss you goodbye. Why they bring more bread. Making you happy makes them happy. They can't help themselves. As Giuseppe Cipriani famously said about his early years as a waiter and barman before opening Harry's Bar in Venice in 1931: ''What I liked most about the hospitality business was the service, making people happy, the continual human relationship with clients.''
There's an immediate sense of that innate Italian generosity of spirit at Pyrmont's newest arrival, Tappo Osteria. Like the Cipriani family, the Zuzzas are steeped in hospitality. Before taking over Haberfield wood-fired pizza restaurant La Disfida, Peter Zuzza ran his family's long-standing Mixing Pot restaurant in Glebe. His father Giuseppe came from a long line of restaurateurs in northern Italy, and is credited with having introduced Sydney to the delights of tiramisu while working for his brother, Aldo, at Darcy's in Paddington in 1977.
Peter continues the family tradition by teaming up with his brother-in-law, Gary Lapone, at the former Libiamo in Pyrmont. On the face of it, the breezy front terrace, separate wood-fired pizza station, corrugated iron-clad pizza oven and long, narrow gullet of a dining room have changed little. The galley kitchen servery is now overhung with two blackboards (one English, one Italian) scrawled with today's specials, from the salumi, pasta and pizza of the day to the red wine, white wine and Italian beer of the day.
Go-to dish: Calzoncini fritti. Photo: Steven Siewert
Unsurprisingly, there is a long list of pizze on offer, from the classic Margherita to the not-so-classic Russolini of mozzarella, anchovies, mortadella and black truffle salsa. There's also a daily ''qualcosina'' (something small) special - tonight, it's those too-rarely-seen crisp-fried, Neapolitan pizzette, calzoncini fritte ($13), with a gooey, cheesy, ham-flecked filling and a rich, fresh tomato salsa on the side for dipping.
The kitchen, helmed by consultant chef Danny Russo until a new head chef comes on board, blends traditional and familiar Italian flavours with some contained, contemporary flourishes. The salumi board ($17) is excellent, and fish carpaccio ($17) has freshness and finesse, its colourful line-up of finely sliced salmon, kingfish and yellow fin tuna dressed with olive oil, red onion, black olive and crunchy finger lime caviar.
From here, things take a turn for the hearty, with a daily special of two coarse, chunky spirals of Tuscan-style pork, provolone and pine nut sausages on a tumble of slightly dry white beans ($15) listed as an entree. Another daily special of fresh tagliatelle pasta coated with a wild boar ragu ($25) is also appealing.
With a name like Tappo (cork), you would expect a focus on wine; and yes, there's a special vintage list of big hitters, as well as a mix of easygoing local labels and good, value-for-money Italians, including a lush, juicy 2010 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d'Alba from Piemonte ($44) that's crying out for pizza.
But not for long - although I think I've accidentally ordered the least exciting pizza on the 16-long list. The bubbled, thin-crusted base of the diavola (tomato, mozzarella, 'nduja salame, anchovy and olive, $22) augured well, but the dried salame version of 'nduja wasn't half as much fun as the traditional soft paste that comes on the pizza I should have ordered, the Calabrese ($23). Not in the race was a delicate, pallid fillet of salmon cooked ''al cartoccio'' - in a foil parcel with a few mussels and clams - which needed a bit more zip and zap.
Tiramisu stops being a cliche and starts being a must when it's made to the Zuzza family recipe and done in the spirit of the original as it is here ($12), pushing all the creamy buttons and ringing all the chocolate and coffee bells. Scooped out of a giant bowl at the table, it makes all portion-controlled, individual-serve versions look mean.
This is enjoyable, familiar food, packaged in a welcoming, unpretentious manner that makes you glad we copped so many Italians in our melting pot. It looks to be a good move on both sides - for Zuzza to move closer to town and a higher density of diners, and for Pyrmont to get a bit more of that unique Italian hospitality DNA.
Best bit The sense of hospitality.
Worst bit Sitting down the back out of sight of the blackboards.
Go-to dish Calzoncini fritti, $13.
Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.
- 02 9552 1509
- Cuisine - Italian
- Prices - About $80 for two, plus wine
- Features - Licensed
- Chef(s) - Danny Russo
- Owners - Peter Zuzza, Gary Lapone
- Opening Hours - Lunch Wed-Fri, noon-2.30pm; dinner Tue-Sat, 5-10pm
- Author - Terry Durack