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FOOD & DRINK

Don Peppino's

This Italian restaurant in a former Oxford Street nightclub is here for a good time (not a long time).
By Marissa Ciampi
July 08, 2019
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Don Peppino's

This Italian restaurant in a former Oxford Street nightclub is here for a good time (not a long time).
By Marissa Ciampi
July 08, 2019
  shares

Don Peppino's — "a good times Italian restaurant" — has been open for over eight months and its popularity shows no sign of slowing. At this point, it's safe to say that it's another successful undertaking by the Full Circle collective, which is made up of Chef Daniel Johnston (Restaurant Hubert, Fred's), Restaurant Manager Thomas Merryweather (Cornersmith) and "vibe guy" (and Chef) Harry Levy (Bar Brose, Love, Tilly Devine).

If the name sounds familiar, it's probably because the trio has also run three other wildly popular Italian pop-ups: Wilmer in Potts Point, Alfio's in Leichardt and The Eat In Chippendale.

At the collective's latest restaurant, you enter off Oxford Street, walk up a few flights of a gorgeous heritage-listed staircase and enter a buzzing dining room, where the venue's slogan just about sums it up. The team chose to keep the "daggy nightclub vibe" it inherited, with the back DJ booth left intact for semi-regular dance nights. The trio has certainly spruced the place up, though, with its golden mood lighting and sleek Italian diner fit-out taking on a simple yet energetic vibe.

The short handwritten menu changes every fortnight and focuses on little-known regional dishes. Those include the ceci e tria ($23) a chickpea pasta from Puglia, which is a regular 'off-menu' option and, though vegan, comes topped with deep-fried pasta shells that are reminiscent of chicharrón. It's a standout on the menu.

The gnocchi gorgonzola ($22), however, wasn't as great — the pasta, though pillowy, was served in a not-quite-set cream sauce and topped with an overpowering amount of walnuts. For us, the star of the menu here was the entrees, which really showcase the ingredients in an interesting, yet authentic Italian way.

We couldn't get enough of the anchovy pane fritto ($5 each), which is akin to a savoury zeppola and offers the perfect salty bite. It pairs nicely with the incredibly light and creamy ricotta ($12) served with crispy Sardinian flatbread (though we reckon the it goes just as nicely atop the anchovy). Even the roasted and pickled veg dish ($12) is something special, and tastes like it has been marinating in red wine vinegar for centuries.

The group's regular wine collaborator Sally Rainbows (Good Intentions Wine Co) is behind the succinct list, which focuses on natural drops from small Italian and Australian producers. While the house carafes are certainly well priced ($27 for half, $4o for full), the sparkling and white we tried were a little sweet. If you're happy to drop a little more cash, we recommend going for a carafe of the Good Intentions Artesian Lava instead ($44–66).

For those looking to cure their Sunday blues, Don Peppino's has begun opening for long lunches on the last Sunday of the month, starting June 30. And they've just returned from a trip around Sicily, Tuscany and Puglia, so we're expecting some fun new dishes from the kitchen, too.

While the team's lease is up in April 2020, there's a good chance the pop-up will be extended another six to twelve months, so keep an eye on this space.

Images: Kitti Gould

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