Nestled in The Rocks amongst Sydney’s historic precinct you’ll find Appetito Pizza Pasta Bar. Built in the 1880’s this striking sandstone building was once a bank and so rather appropriate was the name of our latest Secret Foodies event, ‘The Italian Job’.
Unfortunately I didn’t see anyone arrive in an old-school mini cooper and thankfully no robberies took place. Instead we were treated to a delightful evening full of delicious Italian cuisine, historic ambience and fabulous company.
Although beautiful, the building itself is rather unassuming, had it not been for the specials chalkboard out front you could easily walk past Appetito unaware of what you’re missing out on. Reincarnated several times it’s housed money, office workers and now hungry foodies. Each floor of the three level restaurant has a different feel but it is the top level and private dining room where our guests were met with Bellini’s upon arrival.
Taking our seats for dinner at the two long tables I couldn’t help but peer around the room, expecting Dumbledore to make an appearance. The marble open fireplace, polished floor and long gothic windows would make Harry Potter and friends feel right at home with the same quirk and character of the Hogwarts dining hall.
There were no waving of wands at the table but there was magic in the air or perhaps it was the appetizing aromas drifting from the kitchen. Regardless, when a selection of traditional thin crust pizza’s are laid before us it made our bellies rumble. Pizza can be personal. With so many variations and methods it’s difficult to please everyone. For me, this was pizza exactly how I like it, thin and minimal with fresh ingredients and simple flavours. The three toppings on offer was the Quattro Stagioni (cherry tomatoes, roast capsicum, artichokes, Spanish onion, mushrooms, black olives, garlic and tomato), Salsiccia (Italian pork sausage, pancetta, onions, Asiago cheese and tomato sauce) and my favourite the Margherita (buffalo mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce). The simplest dishes are often the hardest to perfect. Thin crust originated in Rome and since Appetito’s Pizza Chef is a Roman export it’s easy to see how they have mastered this timeless favourite.
Head Chef Tim Fisher has over 20 years experience in Italian cooking and previously came from another favourite restaurant of mine Lucio’s in Paddington. When it comes to food Tim’s focus is on simplicity and fresh produce. A fine example was the rocket and parmesan salad, so simple yet it had the right balance of ingredients and done in a simple lemon dressing.
Foodies had a tricky choice of four dishes for their main all of which can be found on the regular menu. I opted for the Lombatello, a grilled wagyu hanger steak with farro, lemon and rocket. I would have liked more sauces in this dish. The farro was a little dry but thankfully the meat wasn’t. The wagyu was juicy, tender and there was plenty to share with my neighbours. In return I tasted the Saffron Tagliatelle with zucchini flowers. The pasta was fresh with the right amount of salt and flavouring. I’m not sure I could have eaten an entire bowl after the two…ok three slices of pizza I had for entrée.
The fish with seared scallop on a bed of wilted spinach, Spanish onion and cherry tomatoes was fresh and had I not ordered the wagyu this would be my second choice. The fish was light and flakey, beautifully cooked and the scallop taste as though it had come straight from the ocean minutes before landing on the plate.
I didn’t try the Risotto with sundried tomato, zucchini and prosciutto diced tomato and basil so I look forward to hearing what our foodies thought of this dish.
Appetito has a good selection of wines. I had the Cool Woods Shiraz from Eden Valley and preferred this to the Brothers in Arms Cabernet Sauvignon I had during dessert. Speaking of which, we were given the difficult task of selecting between the House made tiramisu and House made chocolate mousse cake with an espresso and Frangelico glaze. I opted for the tiramisu and wasn’t disappointed. It was traditional and had the right flavours. It wasn’t mind blowing or unique but it was tiramisu done well. The chocolate mousse was light and fluffy, flavoursome and moorish. I didn’t particularly like the Frangelico glaze and think it was better off without it.
The atmosphere at Appetito is traditional and simple. You’ll find the odd quirk such as the original door to the bank vault from the 1880’s on the ground floor and it certainly has a sense of history. The top floor is great for large groups and events. Some new music may be needed even some traditional Italian style music would make for a more authentic feel. I think Appetito is great place to visit for simple, fresh food at a great price.