The Best Italian Restaurants in Sydney
Find where you'll be carb-loading next in Sydney — whether it's in the form of pasta, pizza or panzanella.
THE BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANTS IN SYDNEY
Find where you'll be carb-loading next in Sydney — whether it's in the form of pasta, pizza or panzanella.
Each of Sydney's best Italian restaurants is different in its own way. Many of the old-school institutions have pumped out the same dishes for decades, seeing no reason to reinvent food that's already been perfected. And the service at these classic diners can either be casually chaotic or refined and romantic — simply choose your preferred option.
And then you have the new wave of Italian eateries in Sydney. Treat yourself to fine dining degustations in converted lofts. Sip on negroni sbagliatos while your basil pesto is freshly made at your table. Or sample some fusion food as Italian eats are blended with Asian and native Australian flavours.
There's no end to what's on offer at the best Italian restaurants in Sydney. So, read on to find where you'll be carb-loading next — whether it's in the form of pasta, pizza or panzanella.
When you can walk away from a dinner having shared a starter, enjoyed a delicious pasta or main, not been charged an exorbitant rate for corkage and you’ve only had to fork out between $30 and $40 per head, it’s safe to say you’ll be paying the restaurant a second visit. And it’s exactly why Bar Reggio has such a loyal crowd of regulars.
But a chill and cosy restaurant, this is not. It’s a frantic, non-stop experience from the moment you sit down till the moment you walk out the door. And don’t be surprised if as soon as your plates are cleared, you’re handed the bill and informed that they need the table because there is a line out the door. Our recco? Just keep ordering more and more great food until you’re ready to leave.
Image: Leticia Almeida.
Have a leisurely lunch that lasts into the evening at GellaFrenda. This spot exudes mid-century Mediterranean style. The menu is similarly simple and elegant — and, most importantly, designed to share with many.
Start by building your own grazing platter — think airy focaccia with whipped confit garlic butter, cold cuts, burrata, heirloom tomatoes and charred prawns. Next, pasta. Silky ribbons of pappardelle topped with rich lamb ragu, pillowy ricotta gnocchi with porcini and truffle and the ultimate classic: spaghetti carbonara. Want to try that on a pizza instead? You’re in luck. The team will do just that for you. Pair this all with a stellar cellar list and you’re in for a real good time.
Italian wine importers Giorgio De Maria and Mattia Dicati teamed up with chef Enrico Tomelleri (Ragazzi, Alberto’s Lounge, 10 William Street) to bring this brilliant wine bar to Darlinghurst in 2021. Unsurprisingly, Mediterranean (especially Italian) vinos take centre stage here. And while the team aims to challenge and teach Aussies about different grape varieties, this spot is far from stuck-up and unapproachable.
Grab a seat in the downstairs wine bar to taste your way through different Italian regions while noshing on classic meat and cheese boards as well as a few small plates of food. Or head upstairs to one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney where you’ll find heartier food options that celebrate underrepresented Italian ingredients.
Images: Nikki To.
It’s been over two decades since the Paradiso brothers opened up Fratelli Paradiso — one of the very best Italian restaurants in Sydney. The Fratelli name has grown substantially since then, even taking up residence in Tokyo. Still, the family always manages to make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon a local secret when you come to this Challis Ave haunt for lunch or dinner.
With relaxed yet flawless service and a small, fool-proof menu, it remains at the top of its game, serving up whipped roe and bottarga pretzels as well as timeless crowd-pleasers like its lasagnetta — the all-time best takeaway meal if there ever was one. Be sure to check out the chalkboard specials for seasonal favourites as well.
The fact Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman’s D’Albora Marina has a ten metre-long marble cocktail and gelato bar (staples at restaurants in southern Italy) should give you some idea of its authenticity.
Everything here is legit, from the stucco walls and aforementioned bar to the menu – meat-free as of June 2020 (southern Italians don’t eat much meat). Instead, order seafood caught by fisherman who sell it right at the wharf, or the focaccia made in-house and taking no less than 22 hours. Finish with one of six flavours of gelato, each inspired by a different Italian dessert. And there you have it, one of the best Italian dining experiences in Sydney.
The Norton Street stalwart and true icon of Sydney’s Little Italy has been a tried-and-true spot for a feast since 1952. Whether you sit within the trattoria’s nostalgia-laden dining room or in the courtyard out back, on your lonesome or with a group of ten, the buzzing spot overflows with low-key, good-time vibes.
There’s a boundless menu, $1 corkage and strict rules — ‘No skim, no soy, cash only’ — accompanying efficient service, generous servings and a bright roll call of house-made gelatos. The optimal way to feast? Take your pick of the pasta menu — our rec is the penne melanzane or spaghetti cozze — with a Bar Italia salad and spinach arancini alongside. Pizzas are also a big win here. They’re great to take away to eat at home or in the park around the corner.
Longstanding Bondi favourite Da Orazio underwent a big refurb back in 2022, creating a new bar, Orazietto, next door while they were at it. In summer, take a seat on the quiet laneway with a spritz in hand and antipasto platters all round. It’s serving Italian piazza realness right in Bondi. And when the cold weather hits, cosy up inside with woodfired pizzas and local and Italian wines.
But no matter when you’re visiting, we highly recommend someone at the table gets the rotisserie porchetta with homemade focaccia. It’s one of Da Orazio’s signature dishes. This bad boy is also included in the set menu that features a bunch of meats and cheeses, calamari fritti, spicy vodka rigatoni and a decadent chocolate bomboloni (Italian doughnuts).
Two months after the much-loved Ron’s Upstairs turned its fairy lights off for the last time in 2022, Fontana opened in its place. Gone are the playful plastic vines and colourful wallpaper, while the red carpet and parquetry flooring from Ron’s remains. New leather-clad booths are complemented by warm mahogany tones and just the right level of mood lighting. And, most importantly, the charm and homeliness of the space’s previous occupant are still here in spades.
While Fontana’s menu is ever-changing, expect to choose from a selection of share plates, a few choice pasta dishes and a couple of mains. Possible highlights include prosciutto e pesca, the ricotta della casa and the pasta alla norma. Another win at this spot, one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney, comes in the form of Fontana’s delicately flavoured pappardelle osso buco. It’s a must-order for meat- and pasta-lovers.
Within the walls of Buon Ricordo, as if in Italy, that constant flow of chatter removes the need for music. The huge painting on the wall also transports you to Europe, with giant unfurling flower petals that resemble radicchio leaves. The sun streaming through the curtains leaves only a silhouetted hint of the plants outside. It’s easy to imagine a rolling Tuscan landscape extending beyond them. It’s escapism at its finest.
It’s also where you’ll find some of the best Italian food in Sydney — focusing on refining the classic dishes without trying to reinvent the cuisine. The ingredients are allowed to taste as they ought to, not disguised by complex pretentiousness. Wines are also expertly chosen — with the team receiving the maximum three glass ranking in the Australian Wine List of the Year Awards in 2022.
Paddington’s Italian eatery Barbetta wears many hats, including a daytime cafe, gourmet smallgoods store, date-night diner and workshop space. The venue on Elizabeth Street is an all-day cafe, a charming Italian diner and a space where you can learn to make perfectly pillowy gnocchi or crispy arancini.
The menu is kept simple with a mix of Aussie cafe favourites and traditional Italian day-starters for breakfast, and plenty of pastas on both the lunch and dinner menus — including a lasagna that Barbetta claims is the best you’ve ever had. All of this is complimented by a beautiful Medditteranianinpored space. Grab a seat by the window and feel the sun on your face over a bowl of rigatoni al di agnello.
This northern beaches gem has been through a few transformations in its time, but has settled on its current winning combo. Within this revamped beach shack spot overlooking Freshwater Beach, you’ll find fabulous Italian wines, cocktails and fresh Sardinian dishes that have clearly been made with love.
During the arvo, beachgoers mostly drop by for a few drinks and antipasti bites. But the Italian eats shine brightest once the sun sets. Tuck in to slow-roasted suckling pig with roasted pumpkin, quince and buffalo frue, the scallops with chickpea cream and chestnut mushrooms, and the absolutely divine squid ink spaghetti with mussels, cuttlefish, tomato and friarielli. Match your choices with Italian wines by the glass, craft beers and creative takes on classic cocktails.
For more than 20 years, Il Baretto served up its pappardelle with duck ragu and just the right amount of hipster charm on Bourke Street. In October 2020, in the midst of the global pandemic, it suddenly shut up shop — but, thankfully, it’s reopened within Paddo Inn on Oxford Street not long after.
It brought many of its signature dishes with it, including, yes, that ragu, as well as the beloved spaghetti alla carbonara and the rigatoni alla norma. And while it is no longer BYO, the team has elevated its wine list game by celebrating a select few Italian and Aussie drops that won’t cost you a fortune. The laidback charm and damn good food hasn’t been lost with the move, helping Il Baretto stay on this list of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney.
Image: Cassandra Hannagan.
If you could picture the kind of Italian restaurant you’d like in your neighbourhood, you’d probably picture Matteo. Here, at one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney, you’ll find friendly service, great booze and a thumping big pizza oven that warms up the whole space with doughy and cheesy aromas.
Pizza is a big specialty here — expect a perfectly charred, soft base topped with sparse, quality ingredients. Pastas are also simple, celebrating local meat, seafood and veg. Our pick? Head chef Angelo Malerba’s spicy vodka rigatoni. This uncomplicated, classic approach to food is what great Italian cooking is all about. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And everything here works just as it should.
Image: Steven Woodburn.
Located in the heart of the CBD, Machiavelli Ristorante opened in 1988, focused on bringing the finest and freshest ingredients to its menu – organic whenever possible. Head chef Laurent Cambon has been at the helm since 1994, drawing from his experience working at Paris classics such as L’Arpège and Au Trou Gascon to create one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney.
The menu here is everything you could expect from a traditional Italian joint that’s famed for hosting prime ministers and media moguls alike. The antipasti includes zucchini flowers with ricotta, a caprese salad with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, and prosciutto served on its own or with buffalo mozzarella. For a pasta dish, try the gnocchi gorgonzola or the pappardelle duck ragu in a rich madeira sauce. They’re all winners.
The Love Tilly Group has been championing small bars for years now via the tiny Love, Tilly Devine, in a Darlinghurst back street; the CBD’s Ragazzi, a haven for pasta and wine; and Redfern’s Spanish vermouth and snack bar La Salut. But, the group has outgrown the cosy settings of its previous ventures with one of its most ambitious spaces yet: the 120-seat Palazzo Salato on Clarence Street.
This inner-city spot for all things pasta and wine is located in the heritage-listed former Redoak Boutique Beer Cafe building and pulls inspiration from New York’s Gramercy Tavern and the trattorias of Rome. Food-wise, handmade pasta is to the fore, but other less carb-focused highlights include blue-eye trevalla with pipis, flat-iron steak topped with salato butter, and raw black and white garlic tri-tip. The Love Tilly team has done it again.
Images: Nikki To.
Located in the striking, if controversial, Crown Casino building at Barangaroo, a’Mare is an elegant Italian restaurant offering exceptional Aussie produce paired with classic Italian ingredients. It’s a menu that whisks you off to the sunny shores of Italy and been awarded a Chef’s Hat through Good Food Guide. That’s thanks to acclaimed chef Alessandro Pavoni, who calls on his memories of his native Italy to conjure up dishes that inspire and delight.
The menu here is as long as the Italian coastline, but a fan favourite has to be the classic pesto pasta. For this dish, one of the waiters will wheel over a huge mortar and pestle to your table and grind everything together right in front of you. The fresh basil aromas waft across the room before its taken back to the kitchen and mixed into the handmade pasta. It’s fine dining, but still fun and with generous portions.
The word ‘institution’ gets thrown around a lot when it comes to restaurants in Sydney, but nowhere quite lives up to the moniker than Darlinghurst’s famed Beppi’s. This spot has been serving up some of Sydney’s best Italian food for over 67 years — with Frank Sinatra, Neil Armstrong, Shirley Bassey, Mick Jagger and Rhianna among some of the a-listers who’ve dined here.
But whether you’re selling out Accor Arena or you’ve caught the train in from Penrith, everyone here is equal and gets the same outstanding service and food. Start with a few rock oysters topped with lemon granita and sample a fresh fig wrapped in prosciutto before moving onto a buttery scampi tagliolini and the half-roasted duck served with a rich orange sauce. It’s traditional Italian fine dining at its greatest.
Owners and hospo legends Elvis Abrahanowicz, Ben Milgate and Joseph Valore (Bodega X Wyno, Bodega 1904) recently opened Bastardo trattoria within the new ‘Porteño dining precinct’ that now boasts five of the team’s own venues. At this Italian eatery, you can expect a menu of homey dishes that change daily and focus on seasonal produce.
But it can’t really be described as classic or traditional. The team identifies as a group of “mongrel Italians” who serve up “a bastardisation of Italian food”. In short, it’s the kind of stuff they and their families eat on weekends. Feast on large plates of comfort food before moving over to the aperitif bar that comes equipped with its own vintage foosball table. It’s a new addition to the city’s dining scene, but it’s already one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney.
Image: Caroline McCredie.
In late 2018, an Italian restaurant with olive trees, woodfired breads and next-level pasta opened inside Bondi pub The Royal. Called Totti’s, it was an instant hit in the eastern suburbs. And it remains to be one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney — that and it’s sibling Bar Totti’s in the CBD.
Both locations are best known for their extended menu of antipasto plates and snacks — spanning over twenty different varieties. Sardines, scallop crudo, burrata, anchovies, nduja, octopus and baked tomino cheese are all on the list. You can make a huge meal out of these alone or opt for some of the classic pastas and mains. And while the food is the star of the show here, the booze is given plenty of love, too. Pair your eats with some signature spritzes, classic cocktails with Italian twists or a bottle from the stacked wine list. Treating yourself silly is far too easy at Totti’s.
Looking for a cause for celebration? Passeggiata is the place for you. Spearheaded by former 10 William Street chef and ex-Sagra owner Nigel Ward, this ambitious Italian restaurant is decked out in a bright summery yellow facade. Passeggiata takes its name from an Italian tradition — an unhurried, leisurely stroll you take with your family after a hearty meal.
This is the energy that Ward brings to this eastern suburbs eatery located on Bronte Road. Passeggiata’s menu is seasonal, so expect it to change over time, but the initial array of eats offers something for everyone, with a heavy focus on seafood. It’s easily one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney and a must-visit for any true foodie.
Paddington’s charming South Dowling Street trattoria Zafferano has a lot of history. It originally opened as a cafe, before relaunching as a spot for afternoon drinks, long weekend lunches and hearty Sicilian dinners. But its history stretches far beyond that. The venue acts as a spiritual sibling and tribute to Trattoria Francu U’ Piscaturi, a seafood restaurant that head chef Simone Crivello’s father has been operating out of Sicily since the 1970s.
Crivello and his partner Isobel Galloway bring this long connection to Sicilian cuisine to the bustling Paddington street, offering diners a laidback slice of the Mediterranean within the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s inner-city. The traditional southern Italian dishes celebrate local and seasonal produce, and are some of the best Italian eats in Sydney.
Classic southern Italian eats — with a few contemporary flourishes — are given all the love at Sydney’s Olio. Sicilian-born chef Lino Sauro is the hero behind the pass, playing with traditional recipes without going too crazy. This can best be seen in the antipasti options, like the smoked burrata with compressed blood plum, roasted almonds and mint oil or the scallop confit with chestnut cream and shimeji mushrooms.
But stacks of unaltered classics adorn the menu, too. One such dish is the signature seafood stew. It is, without fail, one of the most delicious seafood things in a bowl you’ll ever eat. The rich broth holding clams, prawns and mussels is everything you want from a dish like this — it feels like it’s come straight from Nonna’s kitchen. You’ll be mopping every last drop with the accompanying bread.
Image: Lauren Commens.
Dan Pepperell (Alberto Lounge, 10 William Street and Frankie’s), sommelier Andy Tyson (Alberto Lounge) and longtime Rockpool Dining Group chef Michael Clift are behind Pellegrino 2000, a relatively new neighbourhood Italian restaurant inspired by trattorias in Rome and Florence.
The menu consists of the Italian staples the owners dearly love, including handmade tortellini, pappardelle bolognese, fritto misto, and tripe in all shapes and sizes. As with many of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney, good wine is on hand. You’ll find a massive selection of Italian classics — mostly barolo and chianti, plus a few prized bottles of the greats like soldera and valentini. The team knows exactly what it’s doing here.
Hinchcliff House is a four-storey mega venue that’s overtaken the heritage Hinchcliff Wool Stores, a huge sandstone structure dating back to the 1860s. Five venues sit inside, but we are focusing on the two Italian eateries: Grana and Lana.
Pasta reigns supreme at Grana (made with flour from the building’s own mill), but the selection of seafood is a must-try here as well. Get the best of all the restaurant has to offer by ordering the burrata, citrus-glazed king prawns and duck ragu. And then there is Lana, the fine diner located up the top of the building, serving mostly degustations menus. Prepare for a highly creative, well-polished yet unpretentious dining experience at Lana — one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney.
Sydney is doing the time warp again. The latest blast from the past is a 70s-inspired enoteca from the folks behind Restaurant Hubert, Frankie’s and Shady Pines Saloon. Called Alberto Lounge, the retro eatery’s kitchen was set up by the gran maestro himself, Dan Pepperell (Restaurant Hubert, 10 William Street, Attica), who created an Italo-Australian menu that takes classic cookery and makes it cool again.
And forget watery table wine. Alberto takes its vino very seriously, as you can probably guess from the wine menu-slash-manuscript, which has been painstakingly arranged by colour and weight. Fantastic food and bevs combine to create one of the best Italian restaurants in Sydney.
Image: Kitti Gould.
City workers, theatre-goers and general pasta-lovers should all have this romantic Italian spot at the very top of their Sydney hit list. Ragazzi comes from the duo behind Love, Tilly Devine and Dear Sainte Éloise. Matthew Swieboda and Nathanial Hatwell teamed up with chef Scott Williams (Bacco Osteria e Espresso, MoVida) and front-of-house star Felix Colman (Dear Sainte Éloise) to open the Angel Place pasta joint and minimal-intervention wine bar in 2019.
Just as Love, Tilly Devine champions Aussie drops and Dear Sainte Éloise focuses more on the French, Ragazzi does the same for Italian varieties — showcasing small Italian producers and Australian wineries that use Italian grapes. A focus on no-waste and nose-to-tail eating is also present throughout the menu, with Williams sourcing fresh local seafood or whole cuts of meat and breaking them down to create a range of exciting dishes. This is one Sydney restaurant not to be missed.
Image: Nikki To for Buffet
Top images: Grana and Lana at Hinchcliff House.
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