Fortuna Drink & Eat review

The front-of-house staff at this modern Italian restaurant in Darlinghurst are buoyantly welcoming.
The front-of-house staff at this modern Italian restaurant in Darlinghurst are buoyantly welcoming. Photo: Edwina Pickles

247 Victoria St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Mon to Wed, 7am-3pm; Thurs 7am-9pm; Fri to Sun 7am-10pm
Features Licensed, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating, Cheap Eats, Breakfast-brunch, Wheelchair access, Family friendly, Gluten-free options, Events, Pre-post-theatre, Pub dining, Romance-first date
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 0431 791 424

Anyone hankering for the buzzy, eating out before-times of pre-lockdown Sydney would do well to head to Fortuna Drink & Eat.

Located on a Darlinghurst corner, with mint green-framed windows, dark shade awnings and bentwood chaired tables inside and out, this modern Italian restaurant's front-of-house staff are, to a person, buoyantly welcoming.

"Hello you beautiful people!" says one, opening her arms wide to just-arrived diners settling at a table. We are greeted as if our very presence will elevate the room's ambience stratospherically. 

Salame focaccia with soppressa salame and squid ink salami.
Salame focaccia with soppressa salame and squid ink salami. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Fortuna Drink & Eat, co-run by chef Egon Marzaioli and restaurateur George Nahas, launched in December. Its ethos is one of celebrating the good luck, or "fortuna", humans strive for in life. That and the life-lifting effect of Italian food, particularly focaccia.

Anyone feeling particularly lucky can test this theory by clicking a spinning wheel on Fortuna's website beforehand to win a coffee, a bread basket, a glass of prosecco or "Nothing". I win "Nothing". Pah!

Once seated, the zingy charm of Fortuna continues. A trio of men with sculpted beards and beautiful arms sit at the biggest table, a banquette-edged corner spot framed by cream monogrammed ceiling curtains and a curved, glowingly back-lit mirror. If an Italian noblewoman dropped by for house-made oven-baked flat bread served in semi-privacy under flattering light this nook would suit.

Bella focaccia, featuring wagyu bresaola carpaccio, parmigiano cream and mixed leaves.
Bella focaccia, featuring wagyu bresaola carpaccio, parmigiano cream and mixed leaves. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Not to say Fortuna is somehow high-falutin. Everyone from tracksuited locals to linen-layered lady groups and after-work families are digging into snapper with kombu butter and green-olive tapanade or antipasto boards with wild Alaskan house-cured salmon and pickled ginger.

The music is loud and so is the conversation, leaving almost everything the animated staff explain about dishes they bring to the table indecipherable. But who cares? It's like a big Italian seated party within a gentle pink, green and cream decor, created by designer David Deksler.

We're out in the room's centre admiring just-arrived plates of Bella focaccia, featuring wagyu bresaola carpaccio, parmigiano cream and mixed leaves, and salame focaccia with soppressa salame and squid ink salami.

Burrata with heirloom tomato and bread crumbs.
Burrata with heirloom tomato and bread crumbs.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Utensils are supplied but eating a triangle of focaccia smothered in pinched handkerchief-like parcels of Italian cured pork sausage with a knife and fork just delays matters. It is best held, fingers steadying the rolling meats and chomped with conviction. 

Marzaioli, who grew up in in Naples, makes memorable focaccia. After a two-day process to make the dough, the baked result is light, soft and crunchy, a far cry from heavier versions that overwhelm toppings and weigh down the stomach afterwards.

Served in triangular slices, Marzaioli's cured meat-topped foccacias look like a group of salami butterflies have landed together to swap gossip.

Spaghettone with whipped ricotta.
Spaghettone with whipped ricotta.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Also swiftly served comes excellent burrata with red and orange heirloom tomatoes and bread crumb, and a vast plate of coiled spaghettone with garlic, fermented chilli, olive dust, bread crumb and whipped ricotta. It is hard to share this rich and zesty pasta politely. 

Chilled water is brought automatically, food is delivered swiftly and even though no one can hear anything anyone's saying, it is tempting to ask a neighbouring table about the quiveringly creamy tiramisu, featuring biscotti, whipped mascarpone, shredded coconut, cocoa nibs and sour grapefruit, in front of them. 

A staff member says Fortuna is a buzzing hubbub at breakfast time, which says a lot for the bustling jamboree it is tonight. Morning diners are offered a menu ranging from sourdough crumpets with whipped butter and fresh berries to fennel and garlic sausage flecked with fermented chilli, or poached eggs with cured wild-caught Alaskan salmon, pickled cucumber and pea puree on warmed black ink flatbread.

The creamy tiramisu, featuring biscotti, whipped mascarpone, shredded coconut and cocoa nibs.
The creamy tiramisu, featuring biscotti, whipped mascarpone, shredded coconut and cocoa nibs. Photo: Edwina Pickles

There are also alfresco footpath tables perfect for people-watching while sipping a bracingly citrusy and honey-toned Italikiss cocktail mixed from gin, Italicus, dry vermouth and grapefruit, or eating crisp fries peppered with herb salt and truffle parmigiano. 

Dip a toe back into the joie de vivre of eating out here and get lucky.

The low-down

Fortuna Drink & Eat

Vibe Buzzing modern Italian bistro with sass.

Go-to dish Salame focaccia with soppressa salame and squid ink salami.

Insta-worthy dish Burrata with heirloom tomato and breadcrumb.

https://fortunasydney.com/