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 dotted with Cypress pines.
Armando Percuoco, the host, who started his Sydney restaurant career some 30 years ago, still exudes Italy. With every hair in place, he is dressed in an immaculate suit with a gold chain around his neck. His husky voice takes part in the continuous conversation.
The food is also perfectly Italian, peasant food executed with refinement. The ingredients are allowed to taste as they ought to, not disguised by complex pretentiousness.
A thinly sliced wagyu bresaola refreshes the palate with white swirls of fat spreading through the overly salted meat. A fennel salad sits on top, lightly dressed with an oil and orange juice dressing.
The dishes move from light and refreshing to oozing with oil. However as it is Armando's home grown extra virgin olive oil, nearly good enough to sip on, the quantity is of no concern. The zucchini flowers speak for themselves within their crunchy light coating. There is no need for stuffing. They are accompanied by little school prawns, also 'fritto', de-headed but still in their shells, a well seasoned seafood crunch. In addition to the oily critters, there is some more oil for dipping. It has a red fluorescent glow being infused with chilli with just the right amount of heat.
The service is perfect. Wines are introduced as though new people, their histories and characters explained. As soon as a glass is empty it is whisked away, replaced with a clean, promptly filled new one. The waiters' silently glide through the room with elegance.
Next is the cuttlefish ink rigatoni. The pungent aroma overwhelms the senses. The unexpected pairing of parmesan with the freshness of lemon zest and parsley leaves a subtle taste of the ocean. All that is left are empty bowls and black lip-sticked smiles.
Above the kitchen several Buon Ricordo Association plates line the wall. Visitors to the member restaurants of the Italian Association are given ornate ceramic dishes to take home after polishing off their 'plato del giorno'. Despite its name, our Buon Ricordo is not a member of the group. However, the once white serviette (now splattered with cuttlefish ink and bruschetta) is its own artwork souvenir of the multi-course meal.
Underneath the Buon Ricordo plates sits 'Reg', a semi-permanent fixture at his corner table almost every Friday and Saturday. The main of Braciolette Reginaldo is a toast to him. Spinach is rolled within a crumbed veal escalope. Each bite of it releases parmesan and nutmeg. It is paired with a Villa Antinori, from the Sangiovese grape. The wine is so light that is it barely distinguishable as a red until it lingers on the tongue.
The meal is finished with chiacchiere – rectangular pieces of dough, deep fried in lard, snow covered with icing sugar. In English it translates to chattering, the Italian equivalent is onomatopoeic for the babbling that still fills the room. After the five hour meal Armando is still at it, perhaps this is the cause of the husky voice, rather than it being from his Neopolitan roots. And he still has the dinner service to go.