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The best Italian restaurants in Sydney

From fine dining to casual eating to classic pizzerias, it's our ultimate guide to Italian in Sydney.

Photograph: Anna Kucera

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. 

LuMi

A former Ormeggio Chef is behind this new wave Italian fine diner right on the water. They do an eight-course degustation for dinner, a swift 45 minute four-course business lunch and do it all with a side serve of Japanese.

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Darling Harbour

Ormeggio at The Spit

Ormeggio delivers, from service to wine to food, in a convivial setting. Plus, it’s not outrageously exxy. If this doesn’t sound like the perfect long lunch to you, we’ll eat our hats.

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Mosman

Lucio's

You know what they say when it comes to art: wretched excess is never enough. The luscious, dizzying art collection on the walls at this Paddington stayer is only second to eating in gallerist and socialite Ray Hughes’ house.

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Paddington
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A Tavola - Bondi

The look of the place follows the same cues that made the original A Tavola such a hit. Big copper orbs light the room and marble communal tables double as workbenches for the chefs rolling out fresh pasta. It’s a like a living window display. 

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Bondi Beach

Pilu at Freshwater

Giovanni and Marilyn Pilu have one of the most beautiful restaurants in the area – it may have panoramic views of the beach, but you may be too distracted by the suckling pig to notice.

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Freshwater

Balla

Out of all the Star restaurants, Balla is the one that feels most like a place you’d want to just drop by and hang out mid-week, or really amp it up on a big night out. Saluté.

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Darling Harbour
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Uccello

It’s hard to think of a more picturesque lunching venue. You’re sitting on a plush, white banquette in a light-filled room looking out over the azure waters of the rooftop swimming pool.

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Sydney

Otto Ristorante

This waterside Italian restaurant offers one of the best vegan menus in the city. It's not cheap, we grant you, but it's worth the investment.

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Wooloomooloo

ACME

We wouldn't call chef Mitch Orr’s food straight up Italian. He's been known to say he takes more influence from Chinatown than he does the Cinque Terre. So what the hell do you call a restaurant serving a menu of seven pastas, a baloney sandwich and cucumber spears pickled in gin? Italianese? Chitalian? It probably doesn’t matter. The more important message here is that it’s fun and good.

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Rushcutters Bay

10 William Street

If the recent upheaval in bars and restaurants has taught us anything, it’s that the lines can be, will be and are very often happily blurred. And 10 William, the two-level wine bar and restaurant just off Oxford Street, is no exception.

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Paddington

Sagra

This tiny neighbourhood Italian restaurant is pitched perfectly for local and wandering food fans alike, offering big bang for relatively little buck. The wine list is exciting, the pastas will haunt your dreams and if they have the fregola with chargrilled king it's essential that you order it.

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Darlinghurst
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Berta

You might know this dark little restaurant for its small plates and awesome wine list, but do you know about their weekly sagra nights, where they highlight a different ingredient each week? Well worth checking out.

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Sydney

Buffalo Dining Club

It’s big trade at Buffalo, day in, day out and you can’t book for anything smaller than a table for ten. Such is the love for the place, the wait can be as long as three hours. Get a drink at nearby Eau de Vie while you wait.

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Darlinghurst

Osteria Di Russo & Russo

Enmore Road just kicked it up a notch with this brand new neighbourhood restaurant serving the best Italian-inspired food the neighbourhood has to offer, where the music’s on vinyl and the crowd is loud and local. It’s a good time. 

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Enmore
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Chiosco by Ormeggio

They said it couldn’t be done, but Chiosco proved them all wrong. It’s a casual, delicious Italian restaurant that does BYO by the water. It’ll work for date night, meeting the parents, and overdue catch-ups and it won’t require all your worldly goods to pay for it.

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Mosman

Vini

No matter how many winning new enoteche chef-owner Andrew Cibej opens (see 121 BC and Berta) the demand for seats here never dwindles. The original recipe remains unchanged: a daily menu of imaginative, contemporary Italian fare scrawled on the walls, packing them in for lunch and overflowing on to waitlists in the evening. 

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Surry Hills

Mantecato

Rosso Pomodoro have turned their venue just around the corner into a specialist risotto restaurant. The tiny room only has around 35 seats which book out faster than you can say Bolognese. You’ll want to get in quick with this one.

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Balmain
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Ombretta

The blackboard menu changes pretty regularly at this neighbourhood tratt – on one visit there’s orecchiette with broccoli, sausage, anchovy and (fairly raw and hot) chilli. On another, it’s a wild boar ragu with rags of fettuccine. Yum.

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Glebe
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Bar Italia

You can eat here for under $15, there's excellent gelati for dessert, and if you've taken a punt on a date you're not sure about, it's loud enough to hide the awkward silences.

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Leichhardt

Bill & Toni's

The café itself is an echo of the Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno – old men sip espresso from short glasses, gym junkies chug cappuccinos, Russell Crowe mulls scripts over macchiatos and footballers feast on pasta and free cordial upstairs.

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Darlinghurst

Bondi Trattoria

Peter Harvey was a fan; Wine Bar of the Year's sommelier Charles Leong is a fan. They must be doing something right at this super-casual Italian restaurant.

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Bondi Beach
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Machiavelli

Plot your next corporate takeover or political coup over a bowl of penne Bolognese at Machiavelli. Every heavy hitter has eaten here at one time or another, from "Aussie" John Symonds to Julia Gillard – each with a larger-than-life photo on the wall to mark the occasion.

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Sydney

No Name Italian Restaurant

There ain’t nothing fancy about No Names but that’s just how the regulars like it. Take the stairs via the seedy back alley entrance and you’ll find yourself ejected into a starkly lit dining room packed tight with chipped Laminex tables.

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Darlinghurst

Da Orazio Pizza and Porchetta

Order the Caponatina 
This is a menu you’ll want to eat all of, either in one sitting with ten friends or ten sittings with one. Here they have a pizze list where each is better looking than the last. And they really are excellent, the bases are that magic mix of soft yet charred and blackened, beautifully seasoned and smoky.The reginella is Orazio’s ode to the Margherita: tomato, fior di latte and basil leaves – it's fresh, light and simple. But it might be the caponatina that thrills us most. Here, fior di latte is melted over the bottom with a fresh, slightly acidic relish of zucchini, capsicum, eggplant and tomato. The zinger here is the crumbly chunks of raw cheese that pop with every bite.

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Bondi Beach

Lucio Pizzeria

Order the Lucio 
Here’s a fun fact: the shape you make when you fold a piece 
of pizza in half to eat it is called a libretto. Yup, just like in the opera. And you know you’re eating a good pizza when you can fold with ease. The list here is strictly classical (your Margheritas, your marinaras, your diavolas), though there are a couple of house specialties, such as the Lucio. Named for chef and owner Lucio de Falco, the Lucio is about the only acceptable half-and-half in town. It’s half a regular Margherita – thin-based yet puffy and charred on the sides – and half a ham-and-ricotta calzone. Can we get a mamma mia?

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Darlinghurst

Da Mario

Order the Salamino Die-hard 
Pizza Mario fans, breathe a sigh of relief: David Cowdrill’s spinoff restaurant, Da Mario, is serving the Salamino. If you’ve had the cheese-and-sausage pizza before, you know why this is the best news you've heard this month; if you haven’t, allow us to explain. The Salamino is your mouth’s new best friend: a thin, charred base all covered in melted mozzarella and big puddles of ricotta and spiced up with crisp curls of salami. It's soft and rich and runny and crunchy and salty and sweet and if you're anything like us, you'll fight like a fiend over the last piece – and then you'll order a second serve.

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Rosebery
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Pompei's

Order the Speck e funghi trifolati 
These aren’t the can’t-get-it-through-the-doorway pizze of your American dreams – 
here they fit neatly on the plate, and there’s no need for a wire stand to get everything on the table. The piccantosa is maximum flavour for minimum fuss. It’s a pantry-friendly riff on a Margherita – when the basil plant is hibernating just swirl some pesto over the top, add some chilli and you’re good to go. The speck e funghi trifolati takes care of the toppings the piccantosa forgot. Mixed mushrooms are enmeshed in a cheesy web 
of mozzarella and then dressed in thin, gauzy strips of prosciutto.

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Bondi Beach

Rosso Pomodoro

Order the Pizza bianco
This tiny little shop is a loud and local slice of White Bay, offering traditional pizza from (gasp!) an electric oven. They’ve got some pretty strict rules here. Try ordering a ham-and-pineapple or a half-and-half and you’ll be laughed out of Balmain. But there’s no need for a Tropicana when you’ve got a Margherita. As much as we always enjoy that classic of tomato, Italian buffalo mozzarella and basil, it’s Rosso Pomodoro’s pizza bianco – potato, Italian sausage and rosemary – that gets our vote. 
The pizza base is charred and bubbly, yet soft and yielding. The sausage is broken into little chunks, flavouring the thin, starchy slices of potato, all perfumed by the rosemary.

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Balmain

Via Napoli Pizzeria - Lane Cove

Order the Via Napoli Salsicce e friarielli 
Here comes fun. And we mean it. Never has Lane Cove seemed like a more attractive place to take a long Friday lunch. Inside, the huge wood-fired pizza ovens are getting a thorough workout as the burly-armed pizzaioli push huge wooden paddles laden with pizza 
in and out. It’s here that you can eat a two-metre-long pizza. That’s the equivalent of just under two Kylie Minogues, toe-to-toe. It’s also about eight Minogues worth of lunch. Go for a metre-long pizza with your choice of toppings if you’re not feeling quite as ambitious.

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Lane Cove
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Vacanza - Surry Hills

Order the Brandi 
The lights are low, the chatter is jovial and the pizza is excellent at the Surry Hills arm of Bronte’s favourite pizza parlour. They have eight pizze on the menu that can be ordered bianchi (white) or rosso (red). The Brandi is as rigid as a military guard when it comes to following the rules for an AVPN-approved Margherita: six orbs of DOP cheese, a vermillion tomato base and four fresh basil leaves on top. The careful layout looks like an edible quilt piece, and straight out of the oven the bases here have just enough structural integrity to get the food to your mouth without it dropping in your lap.

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Surry Hills

Gigi Pizzeria

Order the Peperone Rosso
Turns out pizza without cheese is still bloody excellent. Sure, there were a lot of naysayers on the internet when Gigi on South King Street changed to a plant-based menu, but they were wrong, because a chewy, wood-fired pizza base covered in a layer of sweet golden tomato puree and tender ribbons of capsicum gets all the umami depth it needs from a liberal dose of olive tapenade, capers, chilli, oregano and olive oil. The salty, savoury and spice trifecta hits all the right flavour zones on your tongue – we swear you won’t even miss the mozzarella. Don’t believe us? Just try getting a table – it’s a packed house every night.

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Newtown

The Dolphin Hotel Dining Room

Order the Sorbello
The Sorbello pizza is named for the farm where they source their tomatoes (you can grab some yourself at their stall at 
Carriageworks Farmers Markets on Saturdays – Brent Savage of BentleyMonopole and Yellow goes there to collect his). It’s a margherita boasting thin, crisp edges (not much of a puffy crust though) with juicy tomatoes that pop in the mouth like sweet little lollies. Treat yourself to a Brash Higgins SHZ Shiraz from McLaren Vale on the side, on a list designed by James Hird (Ex-Wine Library) – it’s spicy, leathery and deeply noted with dark fruit.

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Surry Hills
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Popolo

Order the Donzelletta 
We’re more than a little in love with Popolo. From their excellent Italian wine and beer selection to the personable service to Negronis and slices of cured ham at the bar, we can’t get enough. They even do weekend breakfasts. But right now we’re all about the pizza. You might try pizze such as their principessa – a luxed-up Margherita with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil. The donzelletta is a monster of cow’s-milk mozzarella, thin slices of golden potato, sausage and ricotta. You might want to come armed with a fistful 
of Lipitor for that one. Bases come pliable and bubbly, ready to be folded like paper planes – destination, your maw.

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Darlinghurst
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The best of Sydney...

The best picnic spots in Sydney

What could be more romantic than a picnic packed for two and sweeping harbour views? Where else could you organise a long, lazy lunch for a big group of friends? Or, an impromptu dinner date alfresco? Cancel your restaurant booking and head to one of these top places to enjoy a picnic. We’ve called ahead to find out if there’s parking, toilets and barbecues too. You can thank us later.

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By: Rose Daisley