Authentic Southern Italian in Rushcutters Bay
Tucked around a corner behind a gleaning Lexus dealership (as you do) and within that intersecting Darlo-Paddo-Rushcutter golden triangle, is where you’ll find a most exciting addition to Sydney’s Italian food resume. Say bonjourno to Popolo, or “People”, a slick little space bringing the flavours of Italy’s 41st parallel to the Eastern Suburbs.
It’s exciting stuff, and only partly because of the pedigree. Co-owners Flavio Carnevale and Fabio Dore met while working at Potts Point’s Fratelli Paradiso, and respectively hail from Basilicata and Sardinia. They’ve, in turn, recruited a Sicilian chef to run the kitchen, Orazio D’Elia. English sounds like a second language in the kitchen (worth perving just to see its hulking woodfired oven), while even the floor staff parla italiano.
All that authenticity translates to beautifully fresh, seasonal plates from the southern regions. The restaurant’s name suggests the food is what people in small towns would eat, party thanks to attempts by the proprietors to rediscover dishes their grandparents served them as kids. Thankfully that’s not fish fingers or fairy bread, but rather pastas like white rabbit ragu with schiaffoni – picture ravioli squares curled into half-started penne – and pebble-shaped fregola, a Sardinina pasta served with mixed seafood. Oh yeah, and the pizza is killer.
Meat is also popular in these hunting-friendly regions, so check out the slow-braised Sicilian lamb shoulder, served in a cast iron skillet, and skewers of crisp-skinned quail with spicy chicory.
The wines are equally impressive, and have the same focus: some 150 boots almost exclusively from Italy, and the majority from the south. Even Italian wine buffs may have trouble recognising some of these inspired varietals, maybe a pinot-like nerello mascalese from Sicily, galliopo from Calabria, numerous bottles of aglianico, and Sardinian carignano del sulcis. Of course, if you can’t live without northern Italian reds, you’ll find them separately under the ospiti or “guests” banner.
If that weren’t enough to amoré, the glass frontage of bi-folds practically begs to be opened when the sun’s shining – and thankfully aided by heatlamps, so you don’t suffer for your off-season Vitamin D. The open-air possie will be extra brilliant come summer, but the inside is itself a treat: buzzy, confident and comfortable, just like hanging out with the “people” at the local Italian village square.
Where: 50 McLachlan Ave, Rushcutters Bay, NSW
Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-10.30 | Fri-Sat noon-10.30pm | Sun noon-9.30pm
Phone: (02) 9361 6641