Bondi Road welcomed a small but exciting newcomer to its ranks when tiny restaurant Peppe's opened its doors. The 40-square-metre Italian joint is slinging a simple pasta menu and natural wines by the glass. Oh, and it's all vegan.
Owners Joe Pagliaro and Grace Watson (of Waterloo's vegan fine diner Paperbark) have created pared-back, rustic restaurant with lots of timber and exposed brick. The fit-out is "nothing crazy" — Watson describes it as "a relaxed place where people can feel at home — and the only seating is around the two communal tables or at the long bar.
In the kitchen is Joel Bennetts, who trained under renowned chef Grant King at Pier Rose Bay and later helped King open the two-hatted (now-closed) Gastro Park. Bennetts' resumé also boasts Three Blue Ducks and mostly recently a stint at Japan boutique hotel AIR Myoko, where he spent the nights serving vegan degustations to the masses.
It's a succinct blackboard menu of around 12 dishes and eight wines by the glass at a time, both of which will change regularly. Produce is locally sourced and — as with all good traditional Italian food — ingredients are treated in a straightforward way.
The pasta is made in-house daily, with a special focus on the gnocchi. Recent sauce varieties include pesto with green pea, Peppe's pomodoro and the gnocchi bianchi. The latter is sauced in cauliflower puree and three-hour porcini stock reduction, then topped with oyster mushrooms, crisped sage and toasted pangrattato made with Iggy's bread.
To complement the pasta, there are rotating salads and sides on offer — currently the arancini is doing the rounds, made with Sicilian green olive and oregano and served with tomato aioli. The house tiramisu is, thankfully, a permanent fixture on the menu, and will be joined by regular dessert specials like the coconut and vanilla panna cotta with torched fig, orange and Campari syrup.
On the drinks side, the wine menu focuses on local and sustainable drops, as well as Italian labels courtesy of Fun Wines — an Aussie wine importer run by the highly lauded Giorgio de Maria (of the now-closed 121BC and Vini). As far as Italian restaurants go, Peppe's is trying to keep the price point down, too, with a pasta dish, side and glass of wine adding up to around $40.
Peppe's is in good company on Bondi Road, with natural wine bar Ode and mainstay The Corner House just next door, plus the recently renovated Sefa Kitchen across the street and Merivale's revamped The Royal just down the block.
Coming up, there'll be soul, jazz and blues acts on every Monday from 5.30pm — so you can chase away those Monday blues with a steaming bowl of pasta, a glass of wine and some heartwarming live music, too.
Images: Kitti Gould.