197 Evans St Rozelle, NSW 2039
|Opening hours||Lunch and dinner daily|
|Features||Licensed, Groups, Family friendly|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9114 7394|
Family-friendly restaurants are tough to get right, at least if you want to serve impressive food at reasonable prices. Yum cha temples excepted, most places designed to "feed the whole clan" are a hodgepodge of stodge and disappointment. Like Adam Sandler films and half-time entertainment at the footy, when you try to please everyone, no one's that pleased.
Ideally, you want something for Nan – perhaps a nice bit of fish – kids' options that go beyond chicken nuggets, steak for the parents, schnitzel for teens, plus options for low-carb dieters, high-carb dieters and the vegetarian cousin who only eats white food.
Small wonder that most family-focused operators often say "to heck with it all" and fall back on chips and pizza topped with a demolition derby of processed meat. Sydney pubs, yes, I'm talking about you.
Totti's Rozelle isn't the perfect family restaurant, and it's at the more expensive end of the pub food scale, but it's fiercely better than most other attempts at the genre. The menu is wholly pizza-free, but there are five pastas and at least four of them are terrific, particularly a tangle of springy spaghetti chitarra with clams, garlic and chilli ($30). Amalfi Coast reveries ahoy!
The first Totti's opened in 2018 at Merivale hospitality group's Royal Hotel in Bondi. It was an immediate hit, thanks to chef Mike Eggert's relaxed Italian cooking and a courtyard engineered for stolen afternoons of rosé in the sun. A neo-tratt CBD version of the brand launched in 2020, and now we have a Rozelle outpost at the old 3 Weeds pub.
The backstreet boozer has been gutted and refurbished to become a sweeping, white-washed space framed by wicker baskets, wine bottles and ornate bowls of lemons. If "Campanian village church hall" was the brief, well done to the designers.
The place has been heaving every night and weekend since it opened in December. A word of warning: the noise levels can be intense. Parking is difficult too, largely due to most of Balmain, Hunters Hill and Leichhardt booking group tables weeks in advance.
Such is the lure of Eggert's wood-fired bread ($12), puffed and blistered in the oven to order.
More than a thousand signature "balloon" breads are baked each week, engineered to be swiped through milky burrata cheese ($11) or to ferry anchovies ($12.50). Make your own family buffet with as much antipasti as possible – think ricotta ($8) and contagiously happy cherry tomatoes flecked with thyme ($11.50).
My favourite bread partner is house-made 'nduja ($10), and I've learnt to keep the spreadable Calabrian pork sausage on hand for mains. Hints of cumin and smoke mean a little dab'll do you very nicely on a half-smoked chicken ($28) that's all crisp skin and deep-flavoured meat.
You'll also want some roast potatoes ($12) with that chook and, good golly, what potatoes they are. Steamed, blanched and fried until golden, the sebagos are turbocharged with garlic, rosemary and kombu seaweed (or as I like to call it, nature's chicken salt).
The spuds are also an essential side for buttery sirloin on the bone ($120) that can be shared between four, whole-roasted flathead ($42), and thumb-thick pork schnitzel ($29) sharpened with parmesan, capers and flash-fried sage.
Try the spinach pappardelle, harnessing kale and crushed pistachios ($27), with it.
There are missteps. Glossy tagliatelle with nubs of snapper crab ($35) is too salty one visit, kingfish crudo ($12.50) is blunt and indifferent the next. I can deal with a $12 glass of peachy-keen house white being poured away from the table, but when a textural Coriole 2020 Rubato Fiano from McLaren Vale costs $25 a pour, it would be nice to see the bottle.
Swings and roundabouts, because there is also dessert. Adults are drawn to the $14.50 tart of the day – burnt lemon, say, or fig frangipane – while kids get a banana split ($15) made at a bar where they can point and ask for more jelly beans and cherries. I'll have some, too, while you're there.
3 Weeds' more grown-up-focused public bar will reopen later this year, and my fingers are crossed its pokies don't make a return. Sydney already has enough gaming. Meanwhile, other pubs should take note of the Totti's template and step away from the sad pizza and fries.
With a bit of simple Italian panache – though admittedly dearer than your average pub prices – you actually can "feed the whole family" in style.
Vibe: A fun family dash through regional Italy
Go-to dish: Wood-fired bread ($12) and assorted antipasti
Drinks: Crowd-pleasing Italian and Australian wines, a smart cellar selection and spritzy cocktails
Cost: About $180 for two, excluding drinks
This review was originally published in Good Weekend magazine