Italian-born chef Nicola Coccia has fine dining credentials stretching from the Southern Highlands to Circular Quay, and shortly after writing his cookbook Farm to Flame, Coccia and his French-born wife Alexandra packed in the top end restaurant game for a sea change. The former owner of Bistro Officina in Bowral moved to Ettalong in 2019, and channelled his passion for cooking over flames into a cosy tavern, located right by the beach.
Here, the $85 five-course menu is influenced by the Coccias' European upbringings, which is especially present in the list of wines, largely from Italy and France. Woodfired Moreton bugs are served with pumpkin seeds and smoked broth; handmade cacio e pepe is topped with black truffles; and flanked steaks with mushrooms and cavolo nero. Or, for a little extra, you can ask for black angus dry-aged rib eye served on the bone. And everyone gets to taste one of the most-talked about accompaniments: woodfired sourdough slices served with double smoked butter.
To dine in, you can choose from two seatings on Friday and Saturday nights — 5pm or 7.30pm — or lunch from midday on Sunday. The vegetarian set menu subs in smoked hen egg, broad beans, celeriac, chestnut and spigarello in place of the steaks. And the wine list leans heavily on organic, biodynamic and vegan selections from boutique wineries of Nicola's and Alexandra's home regions, as well as a couple of local craft beers (Murray's, Balter and Six Strings, for example).
It also offers a takeaway menu of lasagne and tiramisu from Wednesday to Sunday, and out front you'll find its newest venture: a Louisiana-inspired fried chicken shop. The Hot Chook Shop (open Wednesday to Saturday from 5pm, and from 12 on Sunday) is a casual eatery found in the venue's front wine bar. Pull up a stool and order tenders, wings or drumsticks with the choice of three levels of spice, then wash it all down with a glass of on-skin pinot grigio or finish off with limoncello and doughnut ice cream.
Images: Kitti Gould