A native of Piedmont, Italy, Dario Milano is the unique combination of chef and photographer. He was a food photographer for seven years before returning to the kitchen to open Milano Torino, a restaurant dedicated to the northwestern Italian region in Rosebery. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, his Instagram game is one of the strongest around — and there's often a photo-ready feel to the food.
There are plans to have live photography of the food being made projected onto the wall in real time on special occasions, a kind of melding of Milano's twin passions. On other nights, you'll be able to see a slideshow of the images projected above the bar, whetting your appetite for a menu of regional favourites. Alternatively, you can perch at a high bar seat on the edge of the small open kitchen and watch on IRL as food is fired and plated up.
As well as photography, Milano has an abiding interest in representing the flavours of his mountain-studded homeland and it's a welcome touch in a city where many Italian restaurants offer a same-same mix of Italian staples rather than having any particular regional focus.
Entrees include fresh baked figs with gorgonzola and prosciutto ($7.50 each), a tried and tested combination of sweet and salty. An antipasto plate is a good way to get a whole range of the smaller bites and it's a marvel of flavour and colour, with crispy leaves of lettuce and radicchio, cured meat, prosciutto, a salty slice of house-made focaccia with a quail's egg and a poached egg in a sage vinaigrette.
The most interesting inclusion on the mixed plate, however, is a roasted red pepper with a bagna càuda dipping sauce. A Piedmontese specialty, this sauce is a simple but pungent mix of meaty anchovies, garlic and oil. Not unlike fondue, it's a winter dish that is typically eaten in a shared, ritualistic way with friends or family gathering round and dipping bread or vegetables into a communal sauce pot.
Mains include a squid ink spiral pasta which comes generously piled with seafood: prawns, mussels, pieces of salmon and scallops. There's also a salmon ravioli with tomato bisque draped over pasta pieces coloured in neat green, yellow and black stripes. It's a small menu, but one that heroes genuinely authentic homemade pasta rather than familiar Italian staples; Milano tells us he didn't even recognise the bastardised spaghetti Bolognese often seen around Sydney.
Desserts continue flying the flag for regional pride with the Piedmontese bonet, a rich and delicate chocolate dish that combines crushed amaretti, rum and cocoa. Think of a rum baba mixed with a crème caramel and you're getting close to picturing this indulgent treat. Another popular dessert is the vanilla pannacotta, classically done with plenty of vanilla bean and a slice of strawberry on top. It's a strong end to a meal of authentically northwestern Italian specialties and, thankfully, much cheaper than a ticket to Turin.
Images: Dario Milano Photography.