There are people in hats, drinking summery cocktails – at lunchtime. Golden slabs of focaccia on the table. Chestnut-coloured gelato in elegant Murano glasses. Boats with big price tags, moored metres away at the marina.
It's like a picture postcard from the Mediterranean, flipped from "wish you were here", to "wish we were there".
"That's why we're so busy" explains Ormeggio 2.0 co-owner Anna Pavoni. "Our people aren't in Puglia or the Greek Islands, as they normally would be this time of the year."
It's one of the reasons, sure. Another is that fellow owners and executive chefs, Alessandro Pavoni and Victor Moya have rebooted the two-hatted fine-dining establishment known as Ormeggio at The Spit, into a more approachable, inclusive dining model that's an absolute gift to stay-at-home Sydney.
The menu is like a postcard, too. I reckon they came up with a list of everything you want to eat when you're on holidays by the sea in Italy, then gave it to talented head chef Gianmarco Pardini to elevate it; to Ormeggio it.
He's made it snacky and seafoody; all share plates and summery pasta. There's no meat at all, but I doubt you'll miss it. Not when a golden ball of chickpea fritter topped with hand-picked spanner crab and lemon mayo ($10) is so rich and lush.
Or when a finger of grilled sourdough is topped with anchovy-infused Pepe Saya butter and a meaty little Cantabrian Angelachu anchovy ($10), leaving a tang of sea spray on the tongue, as if you've been out sailing.
Then there's my fave, the charcoal-grilled Moreton Bay bug piadina ($46). You have to work for it, wrapping the toasty, warm flatbread around sweet charry bug meat with anchovy butter, wilted cime di rapa greens and a little pot of a rich crustacean emulsion.
But eat it in your butter-dribbled hands as the sun glances off Middle Harbour, and it's an Aussie barbecue and Portofino picnic in one.
The space feels newly Italianised, as well as lighter, whiter and brighter, scattered with cane couches, cushions and Turkish rugs. There's more oomph inside, with a spectacular new 10-metre marble bar fronting a feature wall of fine Italian stucco, its 1950s-a-go-go shapes giving texture and charm.
Pardini has a subversive way of infusing depth of flavour into the most summery of dishes. House-made spaghetti chitarra has a good chew, twirled with a coating sauce of fruity, bittersweet red peppers and topped with a nubbly dice of cured Fraser Island scallops ($36).
If you're missing your meat by now, I suggest you order the cotoletta of yellowfin tuna ($48), which is about as beefy as fish can get. A thick slab of quite beautiful tuna has been coated in wakame and nori seaweeds and crusted with grissini crumbs. With crunch outside and perfectly rare tuna inside, it has all the magic of a sashimi schnitzel. Yet another rich emulsion accompanies – not sure it's needed.
If you're serious, however, you'll partake in the two-part drama known as Queensland mud crab (market price). Act One is crab risotto, served in its own shell, while Act Two is another picnic of charcoal-grilled crab claws to wrap in crisp cos leaves.
If you're serious and Italian, you'll finish with the Amalfi lemon gelato ($22), inspired by thick-skinned, fragrant lemons sourced from Griffith.
The gelato is vigorously whipped by hand to improve elasticity, scraped into an elegant coppa, and topped with silky Italian meringue before being blow-torched. It smells amazingly fresh and zesty, studded with chewy jubes of candied lemon that keep the flavour going on and on.
The almost-cliched postcard setting is deceptive, because Ormeggio is home to several of our most perfectionist chefs, and the food is precisely conceptualised and composed.
Yet it's on a marina, with cocktails, and focaccia, and gelato, and lovely Italian service.
Wish we were there? Nah, glad we are here.
Address: D'Albora Marinas, Spit Road, Mosman, 02 9969 4088, ormeggio.com.au
Open: Lunch Thu-Sat from 11.30am; dinner Thu-Sat from 5.30pm
Dining window: Two hours 15 minutes.
Vegetarian: Daily-changing vegetarian menu available on request.
Drinks: Classic and inventive cocktails, Italian bottled beers, and sommelier Davide Coccia's award-winning wine list with a focus on quality Italian labels.
Cost: About $185 for two, plus drinks.
Score: Scoring is paused while the industry gets back on its feet.