2 Angel Pl Sydney, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 11am-midnight; Sat 3pm-midnight|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
Right next to the City Recital Hall in Angel Place, where the old Angel Place cafe used to be, is a brand new Tiny Little Wine Bar that already looks as if it has been there for years.
That may be because it comes from a team that has nailed the Tiny Little Wine Bar twice already.
In 2011, Matthew Swieboda and Nathanial Hatwell opened Love Tilly Devine in a laneway in Darlinghurst.
In 2017, they launched Dear Saint Eloise in another laneway in Kings Cross. Now, it's time for Ragazzi (Italian for boys, or rather, lads).
At first glance, it looks as if they have nailed it yet again. There's a scattering of hopefuls hanging around in the laneway waiting for a stool at the horse-shoe bar, and a happy din emanating from the dog-leg space, packed like a can of Cantabrian anchovies. So far, so normal.
But in my not-so-humble opinion, they've never nailed the food as successfully as they have delivered lo-fi hangouts and interesting wine options.
So let's see what happens now with chef Scott Williams, formerly MoVida Sydney and Bacco, on board as co-owner.
His ease with Italo-Spanish flavours and commitment to best-on-field produce is immediately promising.
Note the plump, salty Olasagasti Cantabrian anchovy on warm Iggy's sourdough, slathered with a drippingly rich, whippy chive butter ($6 each), and the crisp crackers of pasta fritta tiled with glistening tuna crudo ($8 each).
Note also the one-two complexity of a bowl of broad beans and Vannella burrata ($17), essentially rich cream held in a knot of thin skin.
Cut in, and it floods the bowl, merging with the murky mix of prawn oil, chilli oil and sherry vinegar, every scoop bringing up velvety broad bean puree and the crunch of pangrattato.
And that's before you realise just how sweet the little baby broadies are in the first place, courtesy of one of our finest providores, Martin Boetz of Cook's Co-op in the Hawkesbury.
Pasta is a standout, house-made and truly al dente in a way that makes you realise that the right texture is as much about the making and the drying, as the cooking.
Best is cavatelli (small ribbed shells) tossed with a pink rubble of coarse pork and fennel sausage and just-opened pipis in their shells ($28), the surf-and-turf sweetness reminiscent of Portuguese pork and clams. Ha!
Could this be the first Tiny Little Wine Bar that cracks the food?
Roman-inspired cacio e pepe ($21) has a warm, fireside pepperiness that spreads through the mouth; an ideal companion for 2015 La Morandina Barbera d'Asti ($17/$78), a complex, elegant red from Piedmont.
The shortish menu changes daily, with the only real main today being a single, solemn, sparkling fresh garfish ($28), butterflied and lightly cooked. It comes with little more than buttery juices and a blob of rocket salsa verde, because anything more would be a crime.
A salad of cos and radish ($9) is too heavy on the parmigiano, as if it's angling for Caesar's job.
Cheese is probably a more wine-friendly finish, but a trembling honey panna cotta is a sweetie ($12), refreshed by its perfumed blood orange granita.
There's enough here to make Ragazzi good for a working lunch or playful dinner anyway, but add the heart, soul and seasonal commitment of a bloody good young chef, and it's suddenly way more than just a Tiny Little Wine Bar.
Vegetarian: One starter, two pastas, two sides
Drinks: Classic cocktails, an inviting range of amaro and vermouth, and a 300-strong list of Italian varietals and natural wines
Go to dish: Cavatelli, pork and fennel sausage, pipis, $28
Pro tip: Perfectly pitched for pre- and post-theatre wining and dining