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Alfio's, Sydney

Kristen Allan, Daniel Johnston and Tom Merryweather

Kristen Allan, Daniel Johnston and Tom Merryweather

Chasing exciting Italian food in the most unexpected of places: Leichhardt.

One of the highlights of eating in Sydney in 2013 was the brilliant but too-brief run from The Eat In, a pop-up on Chippendale's Kensington Lane. Now the team from Full Circle, a group of ex-Vini staffers (floor manager Tom Merryweather, cheesemaker Kristen Allan, and chef Daniel Johnston among them) with a passion for presenting honest and nourishing food in dynamic and often surprising ways, strikes again, opening Alfio's.

In place of the very hip studio surrounds of their last venture, they've got the unrenovated charms of Il Pergolato, a backstreet Leichhardt tratt (Alfio, not coincidentally, was the name of its last chef), replete with a courtyard festooned with hanging Chianti bottles.

The food they're cooking, though, is no Aus-talian red-sauce nostalgia trip, but rather the spare and seductive likes of whole artichokes with anchovy butter, braised octopus with potato and olives, broccoli shoots with chilli breadcrumbs, gnocchi with peas, and rabbit paired with almonds and capers. Chef Johnston is reluctant to pin it down too much, saying it's a "similar deal to The Eat In", the set menu changing every service.

"Maybe just turning the Italian dial up a notch," he says. "But not strictly."

And at $50 a head for around five courses, cash only, it's excellent value. And it's BYO. Hopefully Alfio's will be around longer than The Eat In, but there's every chance it's here for a good time rather than a long time, so make the most of it while you can.

Alfio's, 71 Renwick St, Leichhardt, NSW, (02) 9560 2447. Open dinner Thu-Sat.

Update: Alfio's is closing on May 15, 2015.

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