19° & PARTLY CLOUDY ON FRIDAY 31 MARCH IN SYDNEY
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A Newport trattoria from the trio behind Ormeggio at The Spit.

Sottosopra translates to 'upside down' which, for anyone obsessively waiting for season two of Stranger Things, will conjure some rather unkind imagery. However, rather than the dark, nefarious alternate reality of the fictional Upside Down, Sotto Sopra has a sun-dappled shopfront that welcomes its diners into a frenzy of rich sensory stimuli — the smell of freshly baked bread wafting down the stairs from the kitchen, the vibrant profile of Prosecco on the tongue, and the sounds of a whole bunch of Mediterranean chefs and waiters cracking jokes in their mother tongue while they work. If the traffic from Military Road wasn't just behind outside, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just stepped through a wormhole and ended up on Italy's southern coast.

Stepping away from his two-hatted menu at Mosman's Ormeggio, Alessandro Pavoni is keeping this theme of temporary spatial displacement at his Newport restaurant by providing diners with a selection of traditional Italian dishes that might not be so common elsewhere around town — there's not a snowball's chance in hell you'll find a basic Bolognese at Sotto Sopra. Instead, the menu is dominated by dishes like carpaccio di tonno — finely sliced albacore tuna served with fish roe and burrata ($22) — and spaghetti mancini, a deliciously salty pasta with Port Lincoln sardines and black garlic ($24).

There's also a huge emphasis placed on the classic woodfired oven, from which spills a tasty tide of dishes like the eggplant parmigiana with smoked cheddar and lashings of fresh mint dressing ($20), and the absolute best Roman-style porchetta ($36) this humble reviewer has ever had the pleasure of introducing to his taste buds. The soft texture of the meat sits perfectly with the thick crunch of the crackling, and rosemary, pickled cabbage, salsa verde and fennel pollen provide an ordered cacophony of flavours than enhance the protein without ever detracting from its richness. Desserts also play a huge part on the menu, including a tiramisu  ($14) served straight from its cooking dish at the table, and a triumphant caramelised mango tart for two that comes with a hefty lick of lime ice cream ($25).

Sotto Sopra is an alternate reality to Pavoni's Ormeggio, taking away all the bells and whistles of fine dining and replacing them with the chilled vibe of an Italian joint down the road. Rather than trying to break the mould, Sotto Sopra seems to be trying to reinforce the idea that, when it comes to traditional Italian cooking, the mould was pretty damn good to start with.

Published on March 09, 2017 by James Whitton

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