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This all-day trattoria is giving your café breakfast a Roman makeover
Sure, their lunch and dinner credentials are impeccable, but the Italians are not known for breakfast. Roman cafés are places where only tourists sit down while everyone else necks espressi and maybe a pastry en route to work. Sydney, on the other hand, excels at the first meal of the day, and when you combine our city’s love of a long café breakfast with Italian dining sensibilities the result is Barbetta, a slice of the sweet life in the backstreets of Paddington.
Fluffy eggs is not the aim of a carbonara, unless that shepherd’s staple supper has been reincarnated as a classic café breakfast of peppery scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and a crunchy pecorino crisp on the side. Seems much fancier when it’s called carbonara Australiana. Similarly, eggs and soldiers get a Roman makeover, served with a platoon of roasted cherry tomatoes still on the truss, prosciutto, and a wedge of just baked ricotta. Avo toast with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil just sounds sexier when it’s listed as ‘crostino forza Italia’.
Yes, you should add a slice of the absolutely textbook Sicilian ricotta cake to your order. And if it’s too early for the hard stuff, a sweet little bottle of fizzy peach puree is an admirable stand-in for a breakfast cocktail (the long-stemmed glass adds ceremony without the wobbles).
The room is like a Fellini set in full colour, with long banks of windows coyly shaded in oatmeal linen half curtains, chipped brick walls, a picture rail of San Pellegrino bottles, and the requisite wall of Italian pantry staples and small goods. There’s a retro, curved, chrome-edged counter, only here there are stools, because we like to linger over a coffee, and Paddington is the kind of place where people have time for a mid-week brunch.
Other good things? It’s flat and spacious, so score ten for anyone with prams or wheels; and service nails the warm but efficient cross section – we’re not talking boisterous ‘buon giornos’ when we walk in, but the kind of smooth running that make day dining a pleasure. They’ve also got a glassed-in pasta room where they host workshops.
Barbetta is owned by the same southern Italian family behind high-end Italian diner Cipri next door, but here they’ve gone full tratt, with a lunch menu that features beef lasagne, tagliatelle ragù, risotto and a parmigiana: if it’s hot, carby, meaty or cheesy, they’re cooking it.
Getting a brand new venue feeling even remotely like it’s been plucked from a piazza and worn in by years of Italian leather foot traffic is a special kind of design coup, but they’re pulling off a hybrid La Dolce Vita by way of the Inner East experience at Barbetta that makes you want to come back for all the other meals in the day, and definitely for more cheesecake.
2 Elizabeth St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Wed 7.30am-4pm; Thu, Fri 7.30am-4pm, 6-10pm; Sat 8am-4pm, 6-10pm; Sun 8am-4pm|