Barbetta review

Crostino Forza Italia (with avocado and buffalo mozzarella) is smashed avo with an Italian accent.
Crostino Forza Italia (with avocado and buffalo mozzarella) is smashed avo with an Italian accent.  Photo: Janie Barrett

2-8 Elizabeth St Paddington, NSW 2021

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Opening hours Tue-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 10am-4pm. No bookings.
Phone 02 9331 0088

Tip Italy on its side, and everything loose will land in Barbetta*. Spaghetti carbonara will be the first, then espresso coffee, followed by a few tanned men in tailored Portofino shorts, the odd baby, plenty of sugar-dusted bombolini (doughnuts) and a gelato cart.

That's what happens when three brothers from Paddington's popular Cipri – Anthony, Joe and chef Carmelo – open an all-Italian cafe, food store and pasta workshop next door to their mothership.

They've piled the nostalgia up so high, it's like walking onto a Cinecitta film set, with various stages set for the next scene of La Dolce Vita.

The lasagne is the less cloying, tomato-based style layered with bolognese sauce.
The lasagne is the less cloying, tomato-based style layered with bolognese sauce. Photo: Janie Barrett

The space

The talented duo at Acme & Co have formed the interior as a series of tableaux. Do a slow passeggiata along the cafe's long street frontage, and your view changes from shelves of pasta and olive oils to a beautiful wooden bar loaded with pastries and panini to go.

Keep moving, and the bar becomes lined with stools – definitely the place to be – with a theatrical backdrop of bottled mineral water and a flurry of aproned, slightly harassed staff.

Sugar-dusted bombolini (doughnut).
Sugar-dusted bombolini (doughnut). Photo: Janie Barrett

The final scene is a hustly, bustly terrazzo-floored dining space of banquettes under broad antiqued mirrors, busy with communal wooden and retro chrome-rimmed tables. Soft linen half-curtains line the big plate-glass windows, and a rear glass wall reveals a pasta workshop used for cookery classes. The whole place is filled with people. Lots of people. Some mornings it's as if all of Paddington is here to play.

The food

Just breakfast and lunch at this stage, but it's a strong cast of favourite Italian dishes with a cheeky Oz tweak. So the breakfast Carbonara Australiana ($18) is your typical carb ingredients of eggs, bacon, pecorino and pepper, served in the form of scrambled eggs on sourdough toast. You can come back at lunch for a real spaghetti carbonara ($21), which won't be the best spag carb you've ever had, but it ticks all the boxes. Best Ever Lasagne ($22) is the less cloying, tomato-based style layered with bolognese sauce, soft and giving. Focaccia toasties ($13) stuffed with smoked ham, provolone and mushrooms come on small oval trays lined with red-and-white chequered paper, and there's a kale and quinoa Super Verde green bowl ($21) for the area's skinny fashion girls. Prices, generally speaking, reflect local property values.

The interior of Barbetta in Paddington is like a series of Italian tableaux.
The interior of Barbetta in Paddington is like a series of Italian tableaux. Photo: Janie Barrett

Coffee

Toby's Estate Broadway blend from a smart-looking three-group La Marzocco Linea PB is pleasantly sweet, nutty and well-made in everything from a sturdy macchiato to a shakerato (espresso shot blended with ice). In a most un-Italian departure, there's soy and almond milk and chai latte.

Booze

The only thing missing (licence pending). In the meantime, BYO Peroni and Prosecco ($4.50 a head).

*With apologies to Frank Lloyd Wright, who first said that about the world and Los Angeles.

The low-down

Barbetta

Avo index The Crostino Forza Italia ($17) piles avocado on sourdough with cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. Somehow it even tastes Italian.

Overheard "I wonder what Italian is for avocado?" (Answer: "Avocado".)

Loving When pastry chef Rocco Speranza starts singing opera.

Not getting Kombucha and superfood smoothies. More Palermo, please, and less Paddington.

Caffe latte $3.50

Score 2 cups

​Food 7/10, coffee 4/5, experience 4/5

How we score 13-14 [one cup] 15-16 [two cups] 17-20 [three cups]

https://barbetta.com.au/