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Seven Pasta Dishes to Order in Sydney Restaurants That'll Put Mum's Spag Bol to Shame

Bookmark these Italian spots for when only a big bowl of carbs will do.
By Samantha Teague
May 05, 2021
By Samantha Teague
May 05, 2021


in partnership with

Bookmark these Italian spots for when only a big bowl of carbs will do.

Like Eminem, we're all big fans of mum's spaghetti. But, sometimes the situation requires something a little… fancier. Heading on a date? Celebrating a win at work? Or, just acknowledging making it through to Friday? We think that calls for a four-cheese maccheroncini, truffle tortelli or vodka rigatoni.

Sydney has a multitude of Italian restaurants, and, as a result, a multitude of pasta — but not all pasta is created equally. So, together with American Express, we've rounded up the ten pasta dishes that'll put mum's spag bol to shame (no offence, mum). Put on your fanciest stretchy pants and prepare for squid ink fettuccine by the beach, crab spaghetti in a three-storey CBD nightclub and the silkiest ribbons of pappardelle at a Sydney institution.

  • 10

    The Porteño crew’s latest venture isn’t inspired by the restaurants of Argentina. Instead, the team has flown across the Atlantic and borrowed a page (or four) out of nonna’s recipe book. At the centre of Bastardo sits a giant old-school pasta extruder, which is churning out paccheri, cock’s comb and spaghetti, as well as pasta sheets for what is quite possibly Bastardo’s most Instagrammed dish: corn agnolotti. The folded, frilly-edged parcels are stuffed with a corn and cheese mix and stirred through a caramel-like sauce of burnt butter, sage and capers. We suggest you pair this with chunks of 18-month-old parmigiano reggiano to start and a nip of Bastardo’s house limoncello to finish.

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  • 9

    Giovanni Pilu, the renowned Italian chef behind Pilu at Freshwater, opened a more casual — and more affordable — Sardinian eatery inside the $160 million Mounties-owned Harbord Diggers a few years back. You wouldn’t think of heading to a club to eat next-level pasta, but, trust us, here it’s good. Our pick of the bunch is the malloreddus. Also called ‘Sardinian gnocchi’, the oval pasta shells at Acquafresca by Pilu are mixed with a chunky ragu of pork fennel sausage and topped with plenty of pecorino. If you see yourself returning regularly, you can sign up for a $6-per-year Harbord Diggers membership, which gets you a ten percent discount on all Aquafresca dishes — every time.

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  • 8

    Located inside a historic 1878 cash reserve, Prince of York isn’t just a restaurant. It’s also a wine bar and a nightclub, where the (unofficial) slogan is “upstairs for eating, downstairs for dancing”. So, we suggest you start at the top. Here, you’ll find one of the most exciting pasta dishes Sydney has to offer: spaghetti in a bag. The steaming bag arrives at your table and can be ripped open to reveal a crab pasta with blistered tomatoes, a healthy dash of chilli and plenty of garlic. Head in on a Wednesday and you can pair it with $2 oysters (all day), or $6 prosecco and $12 negronis between 4–6pm every day. Once you’ve had your fill of food, venture down the stairs for a good ol’ fashioned boogie.

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  • 7

    A brisk after-work dip in the ocean during the cooler months is usually paired with a salty feed of fish ‘n’ chips, but we think you should consider a bowl of pappardelle at Bondi’s Flour Eggs Water A Tavola instead. Here, the silky, fresh ribbons of pasta are served with a rich sauce of beef ragu with tomato, red wine and a hint of horseradish to get the tongue tingling. Owner Eugenio Maiale’s hearty pasta dish is not just soul-warming, either — it’s sure to bring back to life any numb fingers or toes. We expect its warming power will be even more effective when paired with a bottle of juicy sangiovese or a big, bold aglianico, too.

    Image: Nikki To

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  • 6

    Arte Bianca’s claim to fame is its pizza, but its pasta is nothing to sniff at. The Double Bay restaurant has been kneading dough for nigh on six years and has built a loyal following — much of which returns again and again for the restaurant’s rigatoni alla norma. A traditional Sicilian dish, the pasta sees fat tubes of rigatoni tossed in a red sauce and topped with cubes of fried eggplant and a very generous pile of shaved salted ricotta. While it’s a dish that’d please both meat-eaters and plant-based folk, it’s a particularly good option to keep in your back pocket if you happen to swipe right on a vego.

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  • 5

    Tortelli is a specialty at Surry Hills’ Pasta Emilia. The restaurant currently has five on the menu, including a multi-coloured crab and prawn tortelli and a pink beetroot and chèvre number, but our favourite — and the most indulgent — is the duck and truffle version. Filled with organic free range duck and black truffle from family-owned farm Terra Preta, located just outside Braidwood, the pasta pockets are tossed in a simple sauce of butter and herbs. If you find yourself longing for this elegant ravioli at home, Pasta Emilia also sells it by the box — so you can eat it every night.

    Image: Luisa Brimble

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  • 4

    One cheese in a pasta is good. Two is magical. But four, well, that’s just sorcery. And trust us when we say the resulting four-cheese maccheroncini at Darlinghurst’s Big Poppa’s is magical. Containing parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, stracciatella and cacio di bosco al tartufo (a Tuscan pecorino made from both sheep’s and cow’s milk), the pasta is silky, rich and should not be shared. What you can share, however, is a bottle of something crisp and dry off the 12-page wine list, such as an Italian vermentino or a Californian chardonnay. Oh, and more cheese. Skip dessert and order one of the 19 different cheeses by the slice instead. Cheese dreams are made of this.

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  • 3

    In late 2019, Balmoral’s century-old Bathers’ Pavilion underwent a facelift and reopened with a new fit-out by Luchetti Krelle and a team of Sydney hospitality elite at the helm. You can enjoy the grande dame’s new look by heading to the restaurant for a multi-course meal or to the bistro for an evening that’s a touch more relaxed — but no less delicious. It’s at the latter where you’ll find panoramic beach views paired with the venue’s tastiest pasta: squid ink fettuccine. The black ribbons are served with a generous amount of seafood — snapper, prawns and clams — as well as cherry tomatoes and zingy lemon oil. End your meal with a glass of bubbles on the Louis Terrace and pretend you’ve escaped to Amalfi for the day.

    Image: Nikki To.

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  • 2

    Pouring vodka into your pasta may sound like a viral Tik Tok trend, but penne alla vodka is, in fact, a traditional Italian American dish. While restaurants in both Bologna and New York City say they invented it, many agree it started appearing on menus in both cities back in the 70s — way before social media started influencing our eating habits. It has since made its way Down Under to Sydney, where you’ll find it on the menu at Orazio D’Elia’s Double Bay restaurant Matteo. Here, the creamy and tomatoey vodka-spiked pasta sauce is served with thick tubes of rigatoni, which are made in-house daily, and a dusting of parmesan. We’re sure it’d still make a splash on the ‘Gram.

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  • 1

    Brighton-Le-Sands’ Bianco Kitchen doesn’t just have one gnocchi on its menu — it has eight. You can choose from gnocchi with gorgonzola, oven-baked gnocchi, gnocchi with meatballs and — wait for it — giant gnocchi. Yes, folks, giant gnocchi is a very real thing you can eat. Called gnocconi, the giant fluffy potato balls come stuffed with Wattle Valley goat’s cheese and chives, and are topped with chunky veal ragu and plenty of shaved parmesan. It’s elite-level gnocchi and certainly a step up from the usual Thursday night spag bol in front of the TV. Round out your indulgent night with a slice of the Pasticceria Papa’s famed ricotta cheesecake, perhaps, or a slice of Nutella pizza.

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Helping out never tasted so good — shop small to support the local stores that make Sydney so great. To learn about American Express and the Shop Small initiative, visit here. Then, head this way to find more must-visit spots.

Top image: Kitti Gould

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