Panic… the chalkboard menu of this intimate bistro is written entirely in Italian. Breathe… our charming waiter explains it, clearly with great diction, in a voice flavoured by a Southern Italian accent. He checks to see we both understand. He later tells me: “Everything is a sign.” His impressive waiting pedigree includes Buon Ricordo but he prefers the “very personal” edge of this local Italian hero. I think to myself, it's nice to finally have a waiter who WANTS to be a waiter rather than a frustrated actor, Chadwick model or injured ballerina. It makes a difference.
Our fellow diners are movers and shakers, including Tony Squires one table over with his beautiful wife (also famous). The Crows Nest restaurateur next to us boasts he’s “been twice this week.” Tasting the sensual Gnocchi with Olives and Zucchini Cream ($17/$22) I can see why – instant umami, and the olives don’t dominate the dish. It's the kind of gnocchi you WANT to eat often.
Head Chef (and co-owner) Andrea Vagge hails from Milan. He handles pork particularly well – crunchy topped Pork Belly ($15) has beautifully rendered fat, and is served up simply with Spanish onion and red currant jam.
Later, a Pork Cutlet ($28) is also perfectly cooked; set off by a buttery bed of lentils. The lentils have a great length of flavour, making this a very satisfying dish.
The signature Pappardelle with Duck and Pea Ragu ($17/$22) is a simple dish, with a top note of roast duck. It's not the best thing I have eaten in this meal, but it lets the 2007 Inama Soave Classico DOC ($54) we’re drinking step to the forefront and it’s very good.
If there's any low point, it's probably this side of Broccoli with Chilli and Almonds ($6) - a little boring, I'd prefer some char and chillies with bite.
Dessert of Crostata di Mele ($13) or apple pie with marscapone is simple but well balanced. I am a huge stewed rhubarb fan. We're so full we share it. I leave smiling…
65B Macpherson Street, Bronte
Ph: (02) 9389 3666