Eating well when it comes to Italian in Sydney is as easy as Arrabbiata, Bucatini, Casareccia. We're going beyond the boot when it comes to restaurants like 10 William, ACME, LuMi and Ormeggio, which offer up dishes that are sometimes more Italianese than straight Italian. Not to mention Austalian – that cultural mash-up of Aussie and Italian we're starting to see around town. You can still eat traditionally at the likes of Buon Ricordo, Pilu and Lucio's and, if it comes down to a straight bowl of pasta or an excellent pizza, we've got you covered for that, too. Here are 10 of the Good Food Guide Team's faves, straight from the road and onto your plate.
Chef Federico Zanellato at LuMi. Photo: Peter Braig
We guess Mitch Orr must have skipped that day at TAFE when they taught that buying a pasta machine translates to opening an Italian joint. The menu makes a convincing argument for an osteria – crudo, burrata, tonnato – and the restaurant does trade on its reputation for specialist pasta (learnt under Massimo Bottura): – bucatini, malloreddus, lasagne. But what lands on the plate is more by way of Manila than Modena. Kingfish crudo comes with minced green olive, curry leaf oil and wakame powder. Then come the pasta power hitters: XO-sauced strands of fettuccine topped with steamed, thin slices of abalone; black garlic and crumbs cling to linguine.
60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay. 0435 940 884. weareacme.com.au
10 William Street. Photo: Domino Postiglione
10 William Street
If you were to shine a light on a particular dish at 10 William – a casually chic wine bar and restaurant tucked away in a Paddington side street that serves up Italian dishes with Australian and Asian influences – it would be the wholemeal gnochetti with rooster, marsala and tarragon. The dimly lit environs can make seeing what you're eating a challenge, but relying on other senses is a rewarding experience. There's an extensive European wine list and tastings are happily offered for wines by the glass. To end, classic Italian tiramisu is served without pretension and eaten with enthusiasm.
10 William Street, Paddington. 02 9360 3310. 10williamst.com.au
Buon Ricordo pizzetta. Photo: Greg Elms
Sydney dining legend Armando Percuoco knows his menu inside out and you should know to put yourself in his hands – especially when they're opening big Italian reds or tossing cream and truffled-egg fettuccine at the table (if pasta could be heritage listed, this thumper would be first in line). It's well-seasoned, look-at-me food you want to share hot and straight from the pan, like a straight-shooting special of house-made porchetta or finely textured whole baby snapper, deboned and stuffed full of capers and olives for salty excellence.
108 Boundary Street, Paddington. 02 9360 6729. buonricordo.com.au
Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta.
Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta
Judging by the happiness levels of the helpful all-Italian (and good-looking) staff, Da Orazio must be the pin-up expat workplace. Perhaps it's because they get to wear relaxed fashion-forward shorts, or maybe it's because they're serving dishes their countrymen would be jealous of. Watch in the open kitchen as a guy in a Karate Kid-style headband spins bases, tops them with ingredients such as tomato, fior di latte and salami and, when done, plucks them from the wood-fire oven blistered, charred and soft as a pillow.
75-79 Hall Street Bondi, Bondi Beach. 02 8090 6969. Daorazio.com
Black pasta at Lucio's Italian Restaurant.
Lucio's Italian Restaurant
Mix the warm glow of a long, narrow, golden dining room plastered in Australian art with the sort of service that means your favourite tipple is remembered, and you're set for Italian dining on a grand scale. Young chef Nicole Bampton works a fine line between rustic and refined. A dish of fregolone with shellfish that promises a deeply summery, tomatoey richness is strangely shallow in flavour, but most dishes tick both tradition and comfort boxes.
47 Windsor Street, Paddington. 02 9380 5996. lucios.com.au
Evergreen with sorrel, lemon basil, mint, shiso and parsley served at LuMi Dining. Photo: Christopher Pearce
LuMi Bar and Dining
Who the hell would pipe a glossy black sesame emulsion on top of salt-baked beetroot? And make it look like a party-time continental cake? And make it taste earthy, explosive, incendiary? Only someone like LuMi's Federico Zanellato, in a seamless and wine-friendly amalgam of Italian and Japanese. The harnessed delicacy of his parmesan chawan-mushi and the clarity of fine-skinned agnolotti filled with a nonna-like tomato sugo are measures of his seemingly effortless skill.
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont. 02 9571 1999. lumidining.com
Not just a tomato salad: One Ford Street (Balmain). Photo: Anna Kucera
One Ford Street
There's a lovely mix of Italian and Australian at Fabio Dore's contemporary Italian tratt, tucked in behind a Balmain pub. It's there in "dad's smoked trout on toast", a rich and addictively smoky pâté slathered on grilled bread, and in the generous flavours of grilled lamb "T-bones", fresh off the barbie and piled on a bed of herb-flecked white beans and satiny-soft red peppers. It also feels very Italo-Australian to have a choice of leafy courtyard or cosy dining room, and of pinot nero and pinot noir to go with the autumnal spelt pappardelle with hearty sausage and mushrooms.
1 Ford Street, Balmain. 02 9818 4232. onefordstreet.com.au
Vitello tonnato at Ormeggio at the Spit. Photo: Supplied
Ormeggio at the Spit
Now that their next-door trattoria, Chiosco, is going gangbusters, Ormeggio's Alessandro Pavoni and head chef Victor Moya have introduced a brave new concept to their elegantly appointed, north shore waterside restaurant. Tighten those seatbelts – it's a grand tour of familiar flavours in unfamiliar forms, from a lush disc of burrata risotto with scampi crudo that evokes Puglia, to a precise composition of wagyu beef, cavolo nero and black garlic inspired by Lombardy, and a smash-up of apple strudel from the Alto Adige.
D'Albora Marinas, Spit Road, Mosman. 02 9969 4088. ormeggio.com.au
Pilu at Freshwater's suckling pig. Photo: Supplied
Pilu at Freshwater
It's a rare destination that can check boxes for all people, yet Pilu manages the chameleon task with aplomb: breezy sea views to wow out-of-towners, intimate anniversary lunch (ask for a balcony nook), a celebration for 10, or a meal to make a deal over. Then there's the food: fiercely Sardinian, comforting but not homespun, modern yet not fussy. The roasted suckling pig teamed with nothing more than vinegary braised red cabbage is – as it has always been – satisfyingly hearty. Holiday here annually.
Moore Road, Freshwater. 02 9938 3331. pilu.com.au
Sagra's excellent handmade pasta.
Take a seat at this unassuming osteria and a complimentary plate of house-made sourdough, olive oil and Sicilian green olives will land on your table before you've even taken off your jacket. It's a rare gesture of generosity for this end of town, carried through with warm and attentive service. Sagra's daily changing menu may be daunting for pre-planning obsessives but it's good news for regulars. What the menu doesn't tell you is how much is done in-house: whole beasts broken down in the kitchen, pasta made daily and even their own wine, a "Sangiovese in Purezza". True cucina di casa.
62 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst. 02 8307 0430. sagrasydney.com.au
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2017 awards, presented by Citi and Vittoria, is on Monday September 5th 2016. The Guide will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores from Tuesday September 6, with all book purchases receiving free access to the new Good Food app.