For Giovanni Astolfoni, the new executive chef at Sydney CBD’s Matteo Downtown, there’s nothing like the buzz of a northern Italian ristorante. The venue is modelled on the vibrant aperitivo bars of Milan and Venice, but since April the Italian eatery has taken the time to revisit its menus and bring them more in line with the simple, elegant food you might expect of an all-day dining experience in Milan or Florence.
“We will … be doing a lot of tableside finishing of dishes that is a hallmark of some of our favourite northern Italian eateries – it makes dining a way more entertaining and interactive experience,” Eddie Levy, who co-owns Matteo Downtown with Adam Abrams, tells Broadsheet.
Astolfoni takes over from founding chef Orazio D’Elia, who recently reopened his Bondi diner Da Orazio. The new executive chef will work alongside pizzaiola Marco Terracciano, who perfected his pie in his home town of Naples. His pizzas have a crispier base than those at sister venue Matteo Double Bay. The revamped menu has seven pizzas, which are all cooked in the same imported woodfire oven that you can see from your leather-cushioned seat in the dining room. The toppings lean classic – margherita (fior di latte, basil and tomato) and suprema (fior di latte, provola, rosemary potatoes, sausage and mushrooms), for example.
All the pasta is made by hand, from the swirl of spaghetti topped with blue swimmer crab, chilli, basil and tarragon oil, to the bucatini carbonara. Those looking to blow their end-of-year bonus might like to go for the market-price lobster spaghetti for two. Heftier options include a cotoletta Milanese and a 1.2 kilogram grain-fed rib eye.
What makes Matteo Downtown different from its sibling in Double Bay is that it caters really well to midweek celebrations, large work outings and intimate dinners in the same space. You feel equally welcome for a Negroni and bowl of braised-lamb-shoulder gnocchi for one as you would with a group of 10 making your way from the antipasti to the dolci, including the ever-popular tiramisu and rotolo ricotta e ciliegie – a cherry jam roly-poly with sour cherry ice-cream by pastry chef Layla Giovannoni.
The cocktail list, by bar managers Roberto Torresi (ex-A’Mare) and Sarah Booth (ex-Mr Wong), is heavy on Italian classics (Negronis and spritzes), as you might expect. There’s also a decent wine list ranging from French and Italian sparklings to South Australian, New Zealand and Italian whites and reds.
The dining room is just as elegant as before. Netted curtains cover the windows in a nod to the rustic interiors of a European diner. There’s padded bench seating that divides the dining room, with wooden tables around the edges. Nearly 300 wine bottles are stacked on a shelf along the back wall, and you can see head chef Adam Szymankiewicz at work in the open kitchen. There’s also the outdoor terrace, where you can watch as city workers scuttle between George and Pitt streets.
20 Bond St, Sydney
(02) 9241 2008