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Osteria il Coccia

  • Restaurants
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Part of the dining room at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Osteria il Coccia
  2. A chef cooking over flames at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Osteria il Coccia
  3. Piadina romagnola with taramasalata and salmon roe at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  4. A dish at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Osteria il Coccia
  5. The zucchini dish at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  6. Tiramisu at Osteria il Coccia
    Photograph: Osteria il Coccia

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Food exclusively cooked by fire and a warmth that has nothing to do with the flames is what you’ll find at this Italian coastal fine diner by Ettalong Beach

There’s a block of charcoal apartments along the esplanade at Ettalong Beach that I reckon is home to the second best views in the coastal village. The kind of ones Joseph Puchberger was dreaming of when he first invented the panoramic camera, with calm water, yachts bobbing gently and a blush-cloaked island in front. I say second, because sitting at the wooden bench in front of Nicola Coccia – watching him cook in harmony with the roaring open flame, tenderly, carefully glaze a succulent and caramelised pork chop, and sprinkle a generous pinch of salt over a seared and rosy-hued steak – has got to be the best view in Ettalong.

We’re at Osteria il Coccia, the chef’s rustic fine diner that he owns with his French/Italian wife, Alexandra. Inside is all creamy tiles, terracotta accents, fresh linen curtains and light timber, channelling understated coastal elegance with a nod to Tuscany. From the butter knife carved out of wood to the ceramic plates you can tell weren’t picked up at Kmart, attention has been paid to every detail.

Osteria il Coccia is impressive for a bunch of reasons, but mostly because it’s one of the few kitchens in Australia to be built around a fire. Everything here is cooked exclusively over flames, fuelled by iron bark, stone fruit and olive wood timbers.

Coccia’s CV will also make you raise your eyebrows. Born in Naples, he fell in love with cooking by watching his grandmother roll sheets of pasta in her kitchen. Coccia sharpened his knife skills in Italy before a stint at Spain’s El Bulli, and then moved to Sydney, where he worked at Otto, Quay, and Ormeggio at The Spit. He and his wife’s first restaurant, Bistro Officina in Bowral, won rave reviews. They first opened Osteria il Coccia in a smaller location, before relocating to Ettalong Beach. Lucky charcoal apartment residents.

My Coccia Negroni – made with Moore’s Root & Leaves Gin, Campari and Dolin sweet vermouth – is lighter in taste and colour than the original, with a lovely sweetness to it. It pairs well with piadina romagnola with taramasalata and salmon roe. The Italian flatbread comes in three small discs with char marks next to the creamy dip, which has been piped onto the plate like a ribbon and crowned with orange beads. We load up the piadina like a ferry, and the taramasalata tastes like the sea.

The next two snacks arrive together shortly after, so I’m left to choose which one to tackle first, and for the other to cool like a message to a fling left on "read". But there’s no time to dwell, because our waiter is pouring a liquid over a bowl of octopus and tells us it's the broth the octopus has been cooked in – and I’m now all in. I pick up a spoon and scoop up a chunk with some of the octopus broth. The meat is achingly tender, so tender that it only requires a few chews. The broth is light, flavour-packed and heightened with chardonnay vinegar. Blended chickpeas underneath add a nutty creaminess, and lemon and a drizzle of robust olive oil make it sing. It’s the most sublime octopus I’ve ever had.

Next up are two Wagyu skewers licked by flames and laying on crisp polenta fingers. The meat is coated in an incredibly concentrated jus and adorned with a squiggle of a cheese-like fermented chilli emulsion and shavings of cacioricotta. It’s a banging snack, with as much attitude as a teenager. We pair it with a glass of sangiovese from Tuscany, an organic drop that’s bright with just a hint of tannin. And priced at just $15, it makes me fall even more in love with the Central Coast.

A bowl of tortellini follows, the pasta holding the sauce like petals after rain. A smoked mozzarella broth is poured on top that tastes subtle yet balanced. Inside is a smooth ricotta and spinach filling, though the pasta on the outer petals are undercooked. And after the bold starters, I’m wanting more flavour. A side of sliced zucchini tossed in a vinegary dressing, aromatic thanks to mint and amped up with bits of fried garlic, steals the limelight. My date and I look at the last bit like it’s a hot chip.

Basque cheesecake is flawless, blackened on the outside, velvety on the inside, and topped with jammy figs and a vincotto sauce that’s not too sweet. Afterwards, we step outside into the balmy air, and glance back one final time at those apartments, and the special restaurant below.

Our evening wasn’t without its setbacks. For one, there was no music, and if there was we didn’t hear it over the hub-bub of diners. Service was mostly well-meaning and friendly, though our waiter seemed taken back when I asked a question about a dish. And our glasses stayed empty for longer than you would expect at a fine diner.

Still, these are small drops in the ocean, and they don’t come close to dimming the fire at Osteria il Coccia. Coccia and his team bring the warmth and love of Italy to the Central Coast, and we’re all the better off for it. Now, I just need to find another excuse to come back to Ettalong.

Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.

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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


49 The Esplanade
Ettalong Beach
Central Coast
Opening hours:
Thu 6-9pm; Fri noon-2pm, 6-9pm; Sat noon-2pm, 6pm-late; Sun noon-3pm
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