The Co-Owner of Big Poppa's and Kittyhawk Is Opening an All-Day Italian Eatery in Surry Hills
Caffe Bartolo will take over the old Bills site on Crown Street.
Just when you thought Surry Hills had reached cafe saturation point, another opening is announced. But Jared Merlino, co-owner of popular night haunts Lobo Plantation, Kittyhawk and Big Poppa's, assures us, "This is not a cafe as Sydney knows it".
Set to takeover the old Bills site (which is moving just next door) at 359 Crown Street, Caffe Bartolo will open from 7am through to midnight, seven days a week, serving up cocktails, coffee and Italian-inspired eats. Well, the whole eatery will be inspired by Italy — from the vermouth-heavy drinks list down to its name.
The cafe is a tribute to Merlino's grandmother Mary, but as Sydney already has a well-known Mary's, Merlino named it after his great-grandfather Bartolo Merlino, who migrated to Australia from Lipari, an island off Sicily's north coast.
Merlino's background is in booze-led establishments, and drinks will also be a focus at Caffe Bartolo. But, instead of rum-heavy punch and pun-filled 'dranks', the drinks list will hero low-ABV and vermouth-based cocktails. "It's how we like to drink at the moment," explains Merlino. "You can have several of them — during the day — and enjoy them next to Italian food."
Drinks will be overseen by bar star and Caffe Bartolo creative director Grazia Di Franco, who has worked at Merlino's other establishments, with the aforementioned cocktails complemented by a strong wine list, full of interesting and funky Italian varieties.
While Merlino is still finalising a chef — he's wary of mentioning any names just yet — he's hoping for lesser-known Italian breakfasts, smaller side dishes, share plates and, of course, pasta.
Another big part of the cafe will be its design. And with Kittyhawk recently winning two gold medals at the Sydney and London Design Awards, we can expect it to be impressive.
"It's a great little high-natural light space," says Merlino. "But it'll look completely different from how it looks now." Outside, the twelve seats will remain, but the inside will be gutted, and a small two-person — and we expect highly coveted — bar will be added.
And when will Surry Hills be graced with Caffe Bartolo? Merlino is hoping for a spring opening. "I'm really aiming for mid-October," he says. "I'm probably kidding myself, but if I can sacrifice some sleep now I should be able to achieve it."
When it does open, the Foveaux end of Crown Street will be transformed into a little Lygon Street, with Maurice Terzini's Dolphin Hotel across the road, Flour Eggs Water a few doors away and the Italian family-owned Crown Street Grocer on the corner.
Caffe Bartolo is slated to open at 359 Crown Street, Surry Hills, in mid-October.
Published on August 02, 2018 by Samantha Teague