You don’t need to travel far for a taste of la dolce vita. Sydney is dotted with Italian restaurants, and the Inner West is home to some of the city’s most talented chefs – many of whom are from the motherland itself. From candlelit trattorias serving up plates of hearty Tuscan ragù, to neighbourhood pizza joints churning out the best Napoli slices this side of the Mediterranean. We’ve tasted our way around every Italian restaurant in the Inner West to bring you the ultimate antipasti edit. Pull up a pew for aperitivo hour, these are the best places for an instant pizza and pasta fix…
When you arrive, ask for a table in the Tuscan-style courtyard. Then, settle in for a simple but molto bene meal courtesy of Chef Nicole Bampton (ex Lucio’s). Along with its handmade pasta, Capriccio is known for its woodfired dishes. Almost everything is thrown into the woodfired oven, from the fresh focaccia and paninis to the mozzarella and veggies.
159 Norton Street, Leichardt
In Sydney’s Little Italy (aka Leichardt), this rustic restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy an aperitivo after the working day, or a full-blown meal. The menu is made up of people-pleasers like pasta, risotto, Neapolitan-style pizza, and Italian snacks such as zucchini flowers filled with fresh ricotta. While you feast, sip on a cocktail or a vino from the boutique wine list.
163 Norton Street, Leichardt
After saying ciao to Popolo in Ruschutter’s Bay, Fabio Dore almost moved to Sweden to open a wine bar. Instead, he decided to open a new restaurant in Balmain – and we’re very glad. One Ford Street dishes up delights from Sardinia, where Fabio grew up. Anything you order is guaranteed to be good, but if you can’t decide, go for the sharing menu ($65).
1 Ford Street, Balmain
Scroll through Instagam and you’ll notice that Southern Italy is the new hotspot. If you can’t jet off right now, never fear – Sud serves up street food, Sicilian-style. Start with the arancini, then move on to the trofie al sugo (a twisty pasta with tomato sauce), or the arrosto del giorno (roast of the day). For dessert, get the famous Italian doughnuts topped with Nutella.
10 Cabarita Road, Concord
At Kindred, you feel like you’re eating in an Italian family’s dining room. And you are – the buzzy neighbourhood haunt is Chef Matt Pollock’s (ex A Tavola) home and restaurant. The team makes everything from scratch in its tiny kitchen, from the sourdough and sausages to the ricotta and gelato. Vegetarians, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an Italian menu that caters to you more.
137 Cleveland Street, Darlington
On date night, cosy up in a leather banquette at Pino’s. In Alexandria, the eatery is elegant yet casual, with a loyal local following and the menu to match. The hardest decision you’ll make is deciding what to order. Will it be the tortellini with walnut pesto? The charred octopus? A tender T-bone? Whatever you do, finish your meal with the fluffy tiramisu.
199 Lawrence Street, Alexandria
Every neighbourhood needs a no-frills Italian joint. In Enmore, this is it. Rosso Antico is packed every night with people tucking into Southern-style pizzas. The dough is risen for 36 hours and topped with an array of ingredients. Our advice? Grab a bottle of wine from the shop across the road, and go with a group so you can order the entire antipasti menu.
Shop 2, 52-60 Enmore Road, Enmore
For traditional, fuss-free Italian food, head to La Disfida. The menu is simple, and every dish stars fresh ingredients that are bursting with flavour. The menu is made for sharing, so go starving or enlist your amici to work through the woodfired pizzas (thediavola is hit with spicy lovers) and weekly specials. The restaurant is fully licensed, but you can also BYO.
109 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
This Newtown spot is helmed by Chef Fabio Stefanelli, who was raised in Naples before cooking up a storm at Michelin-starred restaurants around Italy. La Favola is all about simple pleasures. You’ll find six pastas, which you can mix and match with your sauce of choice, plus a handful of starters and sweets. Stuffed with creamy ricotta, chocolate and orange, the cannolo Siciliano is mouth-wateringly good.
170 King Street, Newtown
‘Mantecato’ is the word for the the final, vigorous whisking of butter into risotto – which is a fitting name for this Balmain eatery. Run by Italian-born twins, Paolo and Marco Orso, the restaurant specialises in al-dente risotto. There are six risottos (including a rotating special), plus pastas, mains, and over 300 bottles of Italian wine. Buonissimo!
Shop 129, 85 Reynolds Street, Balmain
Top tip: Mantecato’s sister restaurant, Rosso Pomodoro is another local, family-friendly gem.
And for dessert…
This cheery shop has a beautiful story that begins with Nonno Salvatore making gelato in Messina, Sicily in the 1930s. Fast forward to now, and his family whips up gelato and granita using his original recipes, along with the Gelato Burger. The Instagram star is made up of a sweet brioche bun stuffed with gelato and topped with Nutella and Italian whipped cream.
84 Ramsay Street, Five Dock