Norton Street Leichardt is having an Italian Renaissance and leading the way are third generation restaurateurs Matteo Galletto and Michele Rispol with all day dining at Capriccio Osteria & Bar.
From the bar menu, Paninoteca at $12 is available from midday to 5pm. Perhaps these are the new most fabulous sandwiches in Sydney. Because guess what, not only are the wood fired Panini made on the premises, but they are made to order. Inside the Porchetta oozes luscious thin slices of the most delicious pork, in a blanket of shaved fennel and radicchio. Bravissimo! They are great to eat perched on any of the stools, at the bar or at the custom made timber benches. But locals in the know, also drop in for a lunchtime takeaway.
On the midday to 3pm lunchtime shift, the offer of plates includes sumptuous wood fired oysters topped with prosciutto and pickled zucchini. They are just four bucks for a single piece, but so incredible - the oyster is just warmed through - that a bigger feast is most definitely in order.
The showcase of the new Italian Norton Street generation creativity doesn't stop here. These are just the first glimpses of the contemporary cuisine that is breaking new ground without breaking tradition.
La Parmigiana ($16) tips its hat to the classical dish but with such innovative flair. The eggaplant, tomato, mozzarella and parmesan are all there. The cheese is whole pieces. The parmesan presented via the Ferran Adria El Bulli microwave sponge. Rarely will you find us loving a deconstructed dish today- or this much!
In all, there's about nine lunchtime dishes from vegetarian Caprese ($15) and Cacio fave e pepe ($19), to grass fed sirloin with broccolini ($34). Or there's a favourite, pipis- here with passatelli and tomato. What is fascinating and fabulous here is not just the soft tender clams however. That pasta! It's made with breadcrumbs (grated stale bread - although Capriccio bake the bread especially) bound with egg yolk, and briefly cooked in pipi stock. Just imagine! I have total love for this dish.
Passatelli Vongole ($22) also stars in the four pastas that are offered in the evening. There might be a pipi bias in my dining repertoire but I'm glad this broaches both menus, as does the oysters, and parmigian in the seven smalls of the osteria list.
Wow wow wow drifted across the table with the two bite sensation Cannolo alla mortadella ($4 each). The cannolo is a savoury balsamic wrapped in pistachio crumbs and wrapping a luxurious mortadella pate.
Then came the Piadina romagnola ($6 each) with a al la minute flat bread topped prosciutto, stracchino and piled with rocket. It is finger food, and the Capriccio version of an Italian taco. Pick it up. Go on.
As if this wasn't enough, the taste sensations just kept on coming, the next lush with a fermented lentil bun. Cotechino sliders ($8) each make Capriccio and Leichardt, destination dining. Well all of the dishes do. But this is unique AND outstanding. The bun is full flavoured stopping short of rich and laden with hearty warm pork sausage, with a pickle and mayo. THIS is the best burger (apart from my own home made Aussie beetroot varieties with hand ground grass fed sirloin patties) that I've had. Well maybe the Capriccio cotechino slider shares the gold medal. It seems we hadn't used our WOWs up yet. And there were more to come.
There is a reason traditional regional dishes evolved. In vitello tonnato, tuna was traditionally used as a sauce as a way of using up the fish scraps. Here at Capriccio, I found the most amazing tonnato (tuna mayo) that I have had. Here, it accompanies a lovely seared tuna. The dish is just warm, just room temperature, the way the tonnato should be served. With a little anchovy sliver or two. I could come back for this one too.
Perhaps the most colourful of the plates was Polipo al forno ($17). The fire was used well and keeps the octopus tender and moist. Innovation sprinkles the dish without stretching it too far. There's celery and green olive and squid ink rice crackers. The textbook of good eating both flavour and textural interest are provided with the pretty plate.
And a meal is never a meal without finishing with something sweet, and here's something in itself that would make the journey from anywhere in Sydney to Capriccio Norton Street Leichardt a wonderful adventure. Just one of the Capriccio desserts dons creamy coffee Anglaise with silken Capriccio gelato and decadent chocolate fudge brownies and fine vanilla milk glass.
Capriccio offers Leichardt, Sydney and the World, the new wave of Italian, and a casual sunny vibe, over two friendly floors inside, and al fresco in both front footpath and back yard courtyards.
And are you wondering, who is the Chef? Heading the kitchen, creating this sensational food, (and previously of A Tavola) is the very talented Bryan Gerlini.