Italian food is the unofficial second cuisine of Sydney (the first being Thai). Many of the city's best fine dining and casual eateries have heavily Italian influenced menues, and while good pizzerias and dirt-cheap red sauces places are harder to find than the poshest stuff, there are still spades of options to choose from. We've picked our favourites from every style, so no matter what mood you're in, there's something here for you.
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The best Italian restaurants in Sydney
This Potts Point restaurant boasts a full house rain, hail or shine, excellent service and a super-interesting wine list. Risotto all’Ametriciana sees pearly, round little grains of rice cooked al dente with a chilli, fresh marjoram, fine shavings of Parmesan and thin stubs of pancetta, spread out in a thin layer over a shallow dish. They serve it, you eat it everybody’s happy. (Try it with a glass of nero d‘avola from star Sicilian natural wine makers Occhipinti, or a weird-arse organic spelt beer).
Like an oasis in the desert, a charming Italian trattoria is the last thing you expect to find in the quiet backstreets of residential Alexandria. Seek out Pino’s Vino e Cucina, however, and you will discover that the combination of dark timber, warm candlelight, soft leather banquettes, excellent wine and one of Sydney’s most tender steaks results in the only place you want to eat at for the foreseeable future.
Yes, your read that right. The latest pop-up restaurant from the Pinbone team gets a big shiny five stars from us. Here pasta comes in two speeds. There’s gnocchetti with lamb, but we opt instead for the three-finger thick pappardelle doused in a golf-course green sauce made mostly of broccoli, with cheese and basil to make it feel like a thick, verdant pesto. Soldier on for the smoky porchetta slices glazed in honey and molasses, they’re a successful fusing of juicy Christmas ham and thick cut bacon.
You’re rolling the dice when it comes to Tinder dates, so it should come as sweet relief to learn there’s a dashing chap in Double Bay who is guaranteed to wine and dine you and never, ever send unsolicited nudes. Sadly, you can’t take Matteo home to meet your mum, because it’s a breezy Italian restaurant making Adriatic chic your new aspirational dress code. However, you can take your mum here, and you should.
You probably just popped your head in for a cheeky glass of vino on your way home. But, once the aroma of shellfish, garlic, and chilli in the tangled thicket of spaghettini hits you, you may as well relinquish your evening plans – and your budget for that matter. The only way out of a night of incredible wines and Italianish food at 10 William Street is through it.
There’s only one place you need to be right now, and that’s face-first in a focaccia con porchetta. The outrageous sandwich is a hot, fatty, rich and juicy pile of chopped-up roast pork straight from the rotisserie, laid with crisp cos lettuce leaves and grilled eggplant, all smooshed between pieces of pizza bread in a happy delicious mess. And that’s what happens when you put Popolo’s Orazio D’Elia in the kitchen and catch Maurice Terzini at full power.
You don’t come to Sagra to show off. It’s not about pomp or prestige, any more than fiddly garnishes or fancy plating. But taking someone there will impress them, because this is one of Sydney’s most beloved modern Italians. It’s the simplicity of things that is Sagra’s drawcard. The space reflects this – it feels like you’re stepping into someone’s home as you walk into the little terrace building.
When a classic Italian restaurant in Rushcutters Bay decides to change things up, they go and transform themselves into... a classic Italian restaurant, but this time with a sharp focus on all things Roman. Farewell Popolo, and hello Marta. This is where you can take a dining chair tour of Rome, with a greatest hits menu inspired by the ten years Carnevale spent there as a young man.
For vegetarians, scanning an Italian menu can feel like a game of chance. Spot the right words (stracciatella! brown butter!) and you’re in for a good time, see a bland risotto and the night could be ruined. But at Kindred, Matt Pollock’s homey 40 seater in Darlington, plant-based options dominate the menu, so the odds are ever in your favour. In the 18 months since the neighbourhood Italian opened, the former A Tavola chef has shifted towards a bigger line-up of vego dishes that aren’t just cheaper, but more popular.
Head to this Paddo white table cloth mainstay and order a glass of fresh, crisp Friulano pinot grigio to go with thin green strands of pasta interlaced with blue swimmer crab, bound with tomato. Roast duck with pickled cherries, chicory and poached fennel brings out the musk and stone fruit in a glass of Chianti. It's a big, exxy night out here, but well worth it for the art alone – let alone that crab pasta.