We know it’s a big call, but we think Pellegrino 2000’s truffle butter should be one of your desert island belongings (along with a cooler bag, a good book and a baguette, of course). Soft and creamy with a whack of umami truffle and a hefty dose of salt, the butter is heavenly when slathered over thick and fluffy housemade focaccia. Though beware: it’s very moreish, so dive in for seconds at your own risk (a discreet but necessary unzipping of one’s pants may be the repercussion).
It’s true that us Sydneysiders love our bread and butter as much as the folks who dined at the Last Supper, so naturally there’s a lot of excellent bread around town. But Pellegrino’s takes our coveted Top Spot. Yet it’s not just the bread and butter that’s delicious. Every single dish that comes out of the kitchen at this Surry Hills’ trattoria is on point, cooked beautifully and seasoned well. Which is why it’s about as difficult to get a booking on a Saturday evening as it is to get rid of mozzies in summer.
Take the prawn ravioli, for example. Plump and juicy crustaceans are cased in silky, slippery wrappers and finished with brown butter and sage, resulting in a dish that tastes equal parts elegant and comforting. Whole artichokes come on a plate looking pretty and dressed in a punchy vinegary sauce with mint and oregano. Meanwhile, veal milanese is served with the bone on: golden and crunchy on the outside and blushing pink and tender on the inside. Pick it up and take a bite, just like a grown-up savoury Paddle Pop.
It’s an Italian restaurant, so pasta is a must, and the lamb ragù with rigatoni is rich, hearty and a hit. Think your mum’s spag bol – just better. For something lighter, opt for the classic spaghetti intertwined with succulent and sweet spanner crab, fresh parsley and a lick of chilli. Pair both with a vino from a mostly Italian wine list, or a Negroni, and pretend you’re somewhere in Florence.
A superb crema caramello (yes, just like its deliciously eggy French cousin, crème caramel) is served with a humongous plate of cream not unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Lightly flavoured with banana and doused in a sweet toffee caramel sauce, each mouthful is like a spoonful of a cloud. Jelly shots are given an adult twist – in the Limoncello dessert, the Italian liquor has been made into jelly and served in segments of lemon. Gobble one, and another, and realise what a good time you’re having.
Centrally located on the leafy corner of Campbell and Foster (the former Bar H location), Pellegrino 2000 is helmed by the all-star team behind Bistrot 916: Dan Pepperell, Mikey Clift and Andy Tyson. Opening with a bang at the start of 2022, the restaurant’s aim was to pay tribute to the trattorias of Rome and Florence. That it does, and some more.
Inside is split into two levels. Downstairs is quieter, more romantic perhaps, the walls adorned with hundreds of wine bottles. But it’s the top level that has our heart, with plush dark carpet, statement artworks, and a slick bar. It’s candlelit and cosy, and it hums with the clinking of glasses and laughter. We find ourselves thinking there are few better places to be on a Tuesday evening.
If the sign of an excellent restaurant is that you can’t stop thinking about it after you’ve left, then Pellegrino 2000 is the cream of the crop, offering banging food, attentive and warm service, and a dining room that you won’t want to say arrivederci to. It may take an attempt or two to finally secure a reservation, and it may be at 5.30pm, but it’s absolutely worth it.
And whatever you do, don’t skip the bread and butter.