Urbane gentlemen in well-cut earthy shades lean earnestly across the hefty marble communal table, deep in conversation with slim women. The chunky exposed beams, polished concrete floor and stone dividers make the space feel substantial; fooling you into thinking it’s been here for a while. It’s the kind of setting that makes you yearn to muse over wine, if you don’t mind a bit of a racket that is.
The early popularity is warranted though, the food is great. Chef Eugenio Abruzzo’s (A Tavola) smaller sharing plates, including this plate of Grilled Eggplant ($15) on a cheeky bed of Scamorza (which warrants being on everyone's order) are great. By the way, my photos are a bit shoddy so don't dismiss the place based on them - it was my first night back reviewing after my holiday.
He also does a fine Chicken Liver Pate with Rabbit Rillettes ($16), easily my dish of the night. I am not usually a rabbit fan, but I really liked these bunnies.
The produce is a highlight in beautifully cooked (almost mushy) peas with Cottechino Sausage ($17). The sausage itself is quite strongly flavoured, and doesn't sit quite right for me. I don't doubt it's authenticity, but it's just not to my taste.
Produce is also a highlight in the springy Rocket, Grape and Parmesan Salad ($12). I'll be borrowing the grape idea for a home-cook salad some time soon.
The smaller plates stand out above straightforward mains like Angus Rump ($21) ‘tagliata’ for the trim Darlo crowd. Again I would say, this to me isn't quite what I like about Angus. To trim a steak of fat when the fat is gorgeously buttery seems sacrilege. That said, I am not the ideal client of this restaurant.
This side of Soft Polenta with Gorgonzola and Walnuts ($13) was very unique. It didn't quite suit the main we had ordered, but I felt grateful to have tried it anyway. It was salty and filling in a 'stick to your ribs' type of way.
Glen Davis’s wine selections are interesting and eschew trends. I was most taken with the 2007 Alasia Moscato D’Asti ($10/glass, $45/bottle); a perfect match to the ripe Strawberries and Marsala ($15).
The Bombolini with Italian Hot Chocolate ($15) lay down a challenge to the churros set – shape up!
Our waiter Jonas managed to inject warmth despite the crowd. He stood out amongst the staff, who can (when rushed) emit a coolness. I would definitely return to this restaurant for the food and the wine regardless.
235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9360 1011