When was the last time you sat down at an Italian restaurant but really felt like sushi and dumplings instead?
Criniti’s at Woolloomooloo are either mad or genius, offering Italian-Japanese mash-ups like prosciutto sushi and dumplings stuffed with truffle porcini or tomato and mozzarella. It sounds a little trippy to us, but staff reckon they’re a hit with diners, even if they’re not looking to extend the concept to other Criniti's outlets just yet.
This 320-seat Woolloomooloo outpost is determined to dazzle, adorned with two working Ducati motorbikes suspended from the ceiling and a gleaming Ferrari engine upstairs. Criniti’s has always had a loyal following from families and groups of young people, but here they’re also looking to crack the local corporate market, with a few suits dotting the dining room.
Not into Italian sushi? Never fear. The standard Criniti’s menu is all here: a map-sized list of options that lists a staggering 187 different dishes in old-school typewriter front.
There are over 30 kinds of wood-fired pizza but classics like the Margherita are a lesson in quality over quantity. Fat slices of true D.O.P. buffalo mozzarella melt into stretchy puddles on a thin and blistered tomato base. You can upsize any pizza to a half-or-full-metre. Keep an eye on the free dough-tossing show in the pizza kitchen too.
The pastas are a standout, all handmade and cooked al dente. Get the spaghetti e polpette and you’ve got two dishes in one, with a hefty Mama Criniti’s meatball taking centre stage. The gnocchi ai quattro formaggi is not for the faint-of-heart: light-as-air potato pillows are smothered in a four cheese bonanza of gorgonzola, parmigiano, mozzarella and scamorza with cream.
The behemoth menu features everything from organic saltbush lamb spiedini skewers to lobster mornay to an eye-popping 750g triple decker burger. Vegetarians are looked after too, with wood-fired mushrooms, Calabrese heirloom tomato salad, corn fritters, battered zucchini flowers and more.
Knock back a Goodfellas-themed Martini or Italian artisanal beer from the comprehensive wine list but if you really want to get into the spirit, order one of the communal cocktails served in giant novelty barrels and gondolas. You can even drink out of a ceramic Colosseum or a Leaning Tower of Pisa. Whatever you do, save room for some zeppole, hot Italian donuts rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with warm Nutella.