A taste of the Italian cobblestone dining experience has come to the not-so European backstreets of Neutral Bay, in the form of the Italian Street Kitchen. The casual eatery is confident and social, complete with a sleek fit-out and interactive food stations, where you can pile your plates high with antipasto, pasta, pizza or hearty roasted meat dishes.
The concept is Italian street food at Italian street prices. And though we wish they were dishing up hot cheesy slices for two euro a piece, a serving of pasta is $12, while a pizza will you set you back $12-16. So while it's not quite street value, it's still pretty goddamn affordable.
Italian Street Kitchen is owned by Sydney restaurateur Mauro Marcucci, who is eager to bring the social pizza and chill vibes of Italy to Australia. "We are recreating Italian casual dining," he says. "Whilst street food is popular everywhere now, Italian street food is not something you tend to find in Sydney or Melbourne. The idea is to showcase simple, authentic food that is recognisable for our guests."
The drinks menu boasts an extensive list of Italian cocktails, craft beers and local and imported wines. We recommend starting with an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni ($14), and then moving onto the wine on tap, which will set you back $8 a glass or $38 for a one-litre carafe. Sip while you peruse the lengthy food menu which contains just about every possible combination of cheese, tomatoes and carbs.
We recommend starting with the salami and cheese board ($8 per person), which arrives stacked with melt in your mouth slivers of meat like mortadella, bresaola and salami casalingo. For the cheese fiends, there's a world of options ranging from fried cheese — molten balls of deep fried mozzarella stuffed with champagne ham and basil ($3.50) — to baked cheese ($10), which is served with chargrilled bread. The roast pumpkin arancini ($2.50) should also not be missed, as they come complete with a molten cheesy centre. There's an alarming amount of deep fried items on the menu — but rest assured, everything is battered in crunchy panko crumbs, which is on the healthier side of the batter spectrum. Right?
As for the pizza and pasta dishes, there was a notable lack of key ingredients. The pork cheek rigatoni amatriciana ($15) was lacking the necessary salty chunks of pork cheek, and was little more than pasta lightly coated in a spicy Napoli sauce with a whiff of bacon. While the margherita ($14) is one of the more affordable pizzas, it was in desperate need of an extra smattering of stretchy mozzarella cheese.
The desserts were definitely the highlight though, and all come in at $9. A generous chunk of tiramisu tasted satisfyingly alcoholic and was big enough to share, while the mini calzoncini — oven baked pizza dough filled with liquid Nutella and served with a scoop of vanilla gelato — allows Nutella addicts to get their fix. Our favourite was the cremafritta, which was a final triumphant return to the frier in the form of deep fried custard creme dusted with icing sugar. They looked like little dessert hash browns served with a scoop of chocolate gelato.
Italian Street Kitchen is the perfect mid-week eatery for those looking for authentic Italian food north of the bridge. But, as is usually the case with this cuisine, you might want to check your diet at the door.