We've heard rumours that people visit Bar Reggio after dark but in our hearts, this is a strictly lunch-only affair. There's something akin to time travel when you go for a long lunch here in Surry Hills. The '80s never ended, and the handshake deals and Crown Lager swilling crowd are still out in full force in the terracotta-hued courtyard, and frantic yet endlessly accommodating waitstaff stay on for years, sometimes decades.
There's a lot to love about this classic red sauce joint, not least is that if you split the bill you can get out without hitting the $20 mark, an absolute steal in Sydney. There are also the thick Italian accents booming across the floor, a 'specials' board that has remained largely unchanged for a decade and some of the most beautifully translucent cold cuts you'll find anywhere. Where you might pay double for half the portion at more trendy deli-style venues across town, Bar Reggio will sling you a generous, heaping plate of mortadella, hot salami and 18-month aged prosciutto for just $30. We suggest grabbing a garlic pizza, a drizzle of the house-made chilli oil and going to town.
Next up, a taste of the ocean with perfectly tender charred octopus, all purple and white and black with a simple old-school salad of iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, curly carrots, cucumber and black pitted olives. Ah, Reggio. Never change. Food trends may come and go but the iceberg salad is forever.
Once you've finished admiring the hand-painted mural of Sydney Harbour that adorns the courtyard wall, ramp things up with a gut-busting but entirely necessary bowl of angel hair pasta, crab, saffron and (we assume) enough butter to kill an elephant. You won't want to share the highlighter yellow bowl of butter goodness but we recommend you don't put your doctor through all that and let your dining partner have a taste. The angel hair is another of those 'specials' that they always seem to have the ingredients for, even on the rare occasion that it's mysteriously missing from the chalkboard, so it's well worth asking with a wink and a nod. Just say we sent you.
With a whopping 107 items on the menu, it's understandable that you may feel overwhelmed or even a little wary but stick with us kid, we'll see you through. A dainty barbequed quail is a great main to share after a dip in the fruits of the sea courtesy of a whole grilled lemon sole. If you're going with a group, chuck a couple of pizzas down and send someone on a beer run (Bar Reggio is strictly BYO), you're in for the long haul now.