On the main drag in Woy Woy, a town on the southern edge of the Central Coast, is a pasta joint and cocktail bar that would be equally at home in Newtown or Surry Hills. It's run by a couple of young guns — Dannielle Mills heading up the kitchen and Bryce Gleeson running the floor — and it's serving up house-made pasta and gelato, using ingredients from the compact garden out the back.
The only tip-off as to your location, while inside the restaurant, is the space between tables. You can gesticulate to your heart's content without fear of knocking out your neighbour with a wayward elbow. While it's certainly spacious, it's not lacking in atmosphere. It's filled with locals and out-of-towners alike digging into bowls filled with fat tubes of rigatoni, in a hearty sauce of spicy pork sausage and bitter greens, or soft pillows of gnocchi paired with capers, sugo and stracciatella.
But, as good as the mains may look, we suggest beginning your feast with one of the small plates. If they're on offer, order the ham hock and potato fritters. A twist on arancini, the balls arrive hot and crisp, stuffed with molten cheese and potato, atop red pepper salsa and mayonnaise. They pair well with a glass of something natural — a vermentino by Delinquente Wine Co, perhaps — or an Aussie twist on the negroni made with Maidenii vermouth.
If you're ready to roll out at this point, resist the urge to do so without ordering gelato. It's more of a palate cleanser, and you won't regret it. You will regret making the journey to Young Barons without making a reservation, however — it packs out most weekends. If you're able to make a midweek sojourn, head in on a Wednesday, when you can snag a bowl of spaghetti and an Aperol spritz for a neat $25.