We're talking food, not men. Although let's be honest, they're both pretty delicious. Because when it comes to food, oysters may be an aphrodisiac, but a piping hot bowl of al dente pasta is the fastest way to win hearts. Case in point? The classic Disney movie Lady and the Tramp. Posh puppy Lady falls head-over-paws in love with downtrodden Tramp and all it took was a simple bowl of spaghetti...
Whether you're trying to win hearts or just hungry, here's our hit list for the best Italian feed in Sydney:
1. A Tavola, atavola.com.au
A Tavola means 'to the table' and there's a reason people rush to fill them here: simple, authentic Italian eats. Focused on fresh handmade pastas and seasonal ingredients, head chef and owner, Eugenio Maiale has been winning the hearts of Sydney's fickle diners since he opened Darlinghurst's A Tavola in 2007. A surfy sister arrived seven years later with the opening of A Tavola Bondi. Interiors are Euro chic - one long communal marble table with smaller tables around the fringe. The feel is classy but homey, like Nonna is about to hang her handmade pappardelle over a broom handle to dry. Simple tomato-based pasta dishes sit with traditional ragu on the small menu card, supplemented by a large daily blackboard menu. Bondi's standout entrée is the Calamari Fritti, so light it sparkles on the tastebuds. The Darlinghurst must-have? Rigatoni Ragu.
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2. 10 William Street, 10williamst.com.au
10 William St is the sophisticate that sits between wine bar and restaurant. Brought to you by the Fratelli Paradiso dream team, Paradiso brothers Enrico, Giovanni and partner Marco Ambrosino, 10 William serves up mod Italian fare to share over a bottle or three of vino from the wide wine list. Set in a narrow two-storey terrace down a Paddington side street flanked by boutique fashion stores, its location sets the low-fi tone. It's the perfect locale for a Friday evening Pizza Frittata, which happens to currently be on the menu.
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3. Lucio's, lucios.com.au
In a leafy Paddington street sits Italian beauty Lucio's. The family-run restaurant is the unassuming celeb fave of the Sydney Italian dining landscape: chances are if you've seen a snap of Nicole Kidman exiting a Sydney restaurant, it's this place. Opened in the early '80s by Ligurian restauranteur Lucio Galletto OAM, there's nothing dated about this diner. Current head chef Nicole Bampton is ex-Tetsuya and it shows. The food is perfectly proportioned Northern Italian favourites like Veal Saltimbocca, but with a modern twist. The wine list is Italian-led and extensive with a few carefully curated local drops, such as Grange. Book now.
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4. Buon Ricordo, buonricordo.com.au
Award-winning Naples-native Armando Percuoco steers fine dining Italian stalwart Buon Ricordo with a steady hand. Percuoco started his culinary journey in the Naples kitchen of a family restaurant at 14, an age when most kids think making toast is 'cooking'. Since moving to sunny Sydney and opening Buon Ricordo in 1987 in Paddington, Percuoco has been dishing up Italian love via traditional flavours and his signature fried truffle egg fettucine. Eating at Buon Ricordo feels elegant in a classic black-and-white movie kind of way. Starched cloths, service by staff who actually know what that means plus a gallery worth of artwork on the walls make Buon Ricordo the grand dame of Italian dining in Sydney.
5. Sagra, sagrasydney.com.au
Compact, cool and unassuming, Sagra on Darlinghurst's Stanley Street is the hip new kid on the Italian dining block. It's a mecca for the crowds-who-care, as all ingredients are organic, biodynamic or sustainable: it's farm-to-table Italian style. Owner/chef Nigel Ward takes it high church and even makes the bread and wine. A daily mini but impactful menu includes four antipasti, four primi (pastas/risotto), and two secondi (1 fish/1 meat).