In the latter half of 2022, another Italian joint joined the Macleay Street strip. But it’s not just more pasta, oh no. From the team behind long-time Potts Point staple, Bistro Rex, Enoteca Ponti is a seriously playful take on all things Italy.
Successfully reinventing the space that was once the sleek, monochromatic home of Monopole, and then, briefly, neon-lit Ria Pizza & Wine, Enoteca Ponti is named for – and inspired by – Mr Gio Ponti, a 20th century Milanese designer and architect. Bright, geometric tiles grab your attention from the street through the large, glass windows, and each oversized gold letter of the name ‘Ponti’ that adorns the exterior wall is in a different typeface – a little preview of the eclectic mix of things to come.
Inside, the fitout, designed by Ar Huis, takes inspiration both from Ponti and from the wine bars of 1950s Rome. The leather banquettes are a deep red. The dark brown wood, copper trims and arched mirrors have a romantic, old-school meets new-school quality. Every detail feels thoughtful, from the blue fabric napkins, to the housemade cannoli shells. It’s a space that’s warm and inviting, so it’s perfect for date night – but with a large group you will be able to tackle more of the mains.
Head chef Aldo Farroni (formerly of Shell House and Ombretta) has put together a menu that's a fusion of regional specialties and flavours. A fairly long list of dishes, from raw to roasted and back again, it covers a lot of ground and will require repeat visits to make a dent in all the things that will appeal – we’re looking at you, king prawns.
The staff members are helpful when it comes to suggestions, but next time we might skip the focaccia in favour of the anchovies.
A delicate, tender and well-seasoned veal tartare come slick with egg yoke. Soft, rich meat is balanced out by salty capers and bitey parmesan. Chef’s kiss, as they say. It is by far and away the winner of the night.
Duck ragù comes piled on top of perfectly al dente mafaldine (the ribbony, wriggly looking ones originating from Naples) – a perfect choice for sauce retention. Cooked until melt-in-your-mouth soft, once salted and peppered to taste, it’s just right. Some leafy greens alongside the pasta would be ideal but our salad has gone AWOL.
Meanwhile, in drinks land, the wine list is extensive. It doesn't seem to have a specific theme, and nor should it need to, of course, but because it meanders about, it requires your full attention. Not a bad thing, but perhaps order a cocktail while you peruse. Try the Screamer, a spicy Margarita named for La Gritona (the brand of tequila it heroes), or get into the Italian spirit with a citrusy-sour Roman Holiday.
Back to the wines. Having such a generous offering means there is something for all tastes, which is a wise move in a suburb as diverse as Potts Point. If you’re after something interesting but not too out-there, get a glass of the famous Coenobium. It's a blend of Trebbiano, Verdicchio and Malvasia made by the sisters of Monastero Suore Cistercensi, a monastery north of Rome (with assistance from natural wine maestro Paolo Bea),
it sits happily alongside Farroni’s fare. Better yet, get a carafe. An option which Sydney deserves to have more often.
From the moment you arrive, you feel like you’re a valued regular, even if it’s your first visit. In fact, everyone we interact with is a delightful combination of cheeky and professional, which makes it easy to forgive the slight mix-ups (a moscato arrives instead of the grappa, and the aforementioned salad never appears). It would appear that everything is headed in the right direction, and it’s exciting to see a venue so committed to forging their own path while having fun along the way. One to watch, we think.