Short black

Sold: Bill & Toni's in Stanley Street, Darlinghurst.
Sold: Bill & Toni's in Stanley Street, Darlinghurst. Photo: Fiona Morris

Scott Bolles

The family that steered Bill & Toni's for generations is out of the Sydney institution; its new owner has confirmed the business has been struggling.

“When you have financial pressure, the best olive oil becomes the second best, then something mediocre. People who went there every week could tell the quality wasn't there any more,” says new owner Robert Domabyl, the businessman and Bill & Toni's regular who bought the cafe in Stanley Street, Darlinghurst.

Not that Bill & Toni's has ever been about top-shelf quality on the plate, its eating credentials forged on schnitzels and jugs of cordial. Its real claim to status as a local institution rests on its role as a pioneering coffee institution since the 1960s.

Its last owner, Dominic Zucaro, devoted his working life to Bill & Toni's, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle's involvement in the business.

In 1998, Zucaro boasted he served up to 1300 coffees a day. In recent time he tried to leverage the brand, opening spin-offs.

Zucaro could not be reached for comment.

Domabyl's first priority at Bill & Toni's is to “give it a new coat of paint”. He will work on the quality of the “gut-filling food upstairs” and update the wine list.

And the cordial?

“Some things shouldn't change,” the new owner says.

Much like the place itself.

“It'd be tragic if this venue was anything but Bill & Toni's,” he adds.