Suddenly everyone wants to eat outside – and what's the first place in Sydney most people think of when they think of eating outside? Finger Wharf, that pointy digit extending into the harbour from Woolloomooloo.
One restaurateur on the wharf says his business is up 300 per cent on this time last year, due to the COVID-19 give-me-fresh-air factor.
Even with Criniti's and Aki's having recently left the pier, there's an irresistibly positive sense of celebration as women in floaty dresses turn the promenade into a fashion catwalk fringed by sunshine, water and boats.
At the new Amalfi Way, manager Vincenzo Mea proudly hustles pizzas to cloth-covered tables, cocktails arrive trapped within bubbles of smoke, and the seafood-by-the-sea fantasy is dialled high.
Owner Luigi Esposito, who now has three Via Napoli pizzeria (Lane Cove, Surry Hills, Hunters Hill) as well as Pizza Fritta 180 in Surry Hills, says he wants his latest venture to be an edible postcard from southern Italy's picturesque Amalfi coast.
Finger Wharf already has Otto for high-end Italian and Manta for sustainable seafood, so I'm expecting Amalfi to be more of an everyday, family-style pizzeria.
But no, Esposito pushes the boat out with a surprising list of extravagances. You can pile Italian caviar onto a dozen oysters for $350, or onto pizza with stracciatella, quail eggs and Norwegian butter for $250.
Book a whole wood-fired lobster for $170 at the same time as you reserve your table, and you can have it with a glass of Gaja Alteni Di Brassica for $85 or Dom for $90.
Thank heavens you can also just come in and have one of the 20 varieties of pizza, each bearing a signature twist. A Napoletana ($26) is topped with tomato and buffalo mozzarella, with fresh sardines in place of anchovy. Its cornicione (crust) is puffy and scorched with a good, fermented flavour, and the base is soft and slithery, the way Neapolitans like it.
The grey, squid ink-infused base of a pizza Amalfitana ($40) is scattered with scampi, prawns, squid, mussels and clams that are miraculously lightly cooked.
It's not the easiest pizza to eat, given you have to peel and shell and shuck everything first, but it's very I'm-on-holidays, especially with the fresh, citrussy notes of a 2018 Bertani Seriole Soave ($16/$70) from the Veneto.
There's crudi, of course, with raw dishes in many forms. Highlights of a misto crudi ($65 for two) are two Sydney rock oysters topped with a lemony foam. Both scampi and prawn meat are turned out of their shells and politely chopped, which is never as much fun as pulling it out yourself, and a syrupy aged vino cotto sauce strikes too strong a note.
If you just want straight-up seafood by the sea, your best bet is fritto misto mare ($28), a lovely mix of crisp, deep-fried whitebait, prawn, calamari and whiting teamed with a creamy black garlic aioli.
Head chef Simon Scandiuzzo, doing a sea change from La Rosa, turns out terrific, house-made pasta as well. The scialatielli ($40), a thick, ribbon pasta which was created in the 1960s by Amalfitana chef Enrico Consentino, is tossed with lightly cooked mussels, clams, prawns and scampi and their sweet, oily cooking juices.
Desserts steer away from the usual Italian cliches (nothing personal, tiramisu), into the sort of deconstructions that usually make me long for the traditional original.
Delizie al limone ($22) updates the usual custard-filled, bosomy sponge into a conga line of lemon cream, vanilla sponge, soft meringue, lemon sherbet, nut tuile and a foamy lemon "air", all of which taste good as individual components.
It's a big, multi-tabled beast, and food can come slowly, but there's a puppy-dog eagerness here to spread sunshine, joy and limoncello that is endearing.
You couldn't possibly come to this restaurant in a bad mood and stay that way – not outside, anyway.
The Amalfi Way
Address 6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo, 02 8367 5834, theamalfiway.com.au
Open Lunch Thu-Sun noon-3pm; dinner Tue-Sun 6-10pm
Vegetarian A scattering of dishes from eggplant parmigiana to zucchini flowers and pizza
Drinks Technically interesting cocktails, Italian beer and a serious list of wines with a focus on Italian varietals. The Coravin system means premium wines are available by the glass.
Cost About $150 for two, plus drinks
Score Scoring is paused while the industry gets back on its feet.