IT is a perfect Sydney day, the water is as sparkling as the prosecco in our glasses and a new restaurant is bringing a taste of southern Italy to Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. Il Pontile is a breath of fresh air on the fashionable Finger Wharf. The warm Mediterranean breeze comes courtesy of Mario Percuoco ( Acqua Pazza, Zenith) who played a key role in the restaurant’s genesis, bringing generations-worth of experience to the kitchen (his father Armando opened Buon Ricordo, his grandfather hosted Hollywood in his Naples restaurant). Percuoco’s consultancy means the food is Naples-inspired ( plus the best of other regions too) with seafood as the star.
Owners, Audacia Enterprises, were also smart enough to engage Bang Architects as designers which means the interiors blend Italian tradition with a large dose of sophisticated style. Seats are expresso-brown leather, walls are parchment coloured, adorned with striking original art.
The signature dish, Linguine al Cartoccio, with prawns cooked in parchment and a rich tomato base, and the traditional Neapolitan rigatoni with slow cooked ragout beef are hard to pass by. However, today everything looks so good we choose to graze; sharing plates of plump mussels in the house chili oil, zesty oysters ice cold and citrusy and Fiori di Zucca in Pastella , zucchini flowers with burrata that burst with flavour. Anguria e Caprino (watermelon with molasses and goats cheese) is the perfect palate cleanser, plus it’s so pretty I predict it will be trending on Instagram all season. We follow this with fresh fish of the day sautéed with cherry tomatoes and clams. The relaxed vibe of the restaurant means it’s easy to channel my inner Italian and linger over a long lunch.
Time to revisit the wine list, which offers a sommelier's tour of Italy with some perfect Australasian drops on offer too. And did we mention the cocktail bar? Aperol spritzer is so pass darling, try the blush-coloured Hugo instead.
Il Pontile has got a lot of things right; it’s a post-pandemic venue with its eye on what Sydneysiders really want in this brave new world. Great food. Tick. A decent wine cellar. Tick. Water views, great design, professional but friendly staff. Tick, tick, tick. More than that, the owners have recognised that finally freed we don’t just want to go out for lunch and dinner –but breakfast too, Il Pontile has opened the first and (long-overdue) breakfast bar on the fashionable Finger Wharf. Italian coffee as it should be served and pastries like your nonna used to make if nonna were a seriously good chef. I suspect we’ve all become overly attached to our pooches during lockdown. Luckily here we can avoid separation anxiety because in true European style the restaurant is dog-friendly. Look out for Nero, the owner’s sleek German Shepherd.
Put this one on your Summer To Do List –and then keep going back.