Things are looking up in the spaghetti stakes for the Sydney CBD. The first chapter of Bacco Osteria e Espresso opens Monday, 15 May - the first city location from Andrew Cibej, the restaurateur behind such Italian (and Italianish) hits as Vini, Berta, 121BC, and Ester.
The initial instalment of Bacco is a 30-seat café and bar; the adjoining 60-seat restaurant to follow shortly. When it's all up and running, Bacco will be a place where inner-city Italophiles can swing by for pancetta and egg panini, cornetti and Little Marionette coffee in the morning, then pop back for Spritzes and spuntini at lunch or dinner.
"We really want Bacco to be an absolute regular thing for the city," says Cibej. "A place you can rely on at any time of the day."
Pizze by the slice, salads, and three or four panini will be on offer from the café at lunch, while the osteria menu runs the gamut from antipasti to dolce, with a few twists in between. The tartare, for instance, is dry-aged lamb rather than beef, topped with fried pasta and served with whipped anchovy rather than the classic egg yolk.
Former MoVida chef Scott Williams is on the pans, and he has enlisted Daniel Johnston of Wilmer and Alfio's to ensure pasta is a Bacco highlight. "He's our pasta extruder extraordinaire," says Williams. We have high hopes for the strozzapreti with a goat and guanciale ragù, not to mention the spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and karkalla. Nonna Cibej's gnocchi also makes an appearance, teamed with a pistachio and pecorino sauce, as do Tuscan-style pork, pepper and fennel sausages with lentil salad. Desserts lean classic: an almond and fruit tart, perhaps, "to make the most of the season's quince and pears", and ricotta cheesecake with gelato or mascarpone. "You won't get overwhelmed with too many options," says Williams. "We're focusing on sharp and approachable."
With a list put together by China Doll Group sommelier Clint Hillery (Cibej secured the Ash Street spot with the help of China Doll restaurateurs Steve and John Anastasiou, his partners in the venture) and Cibej, the restaurant looks set to live up to the vinous quality of its name. The focus is on smaller organic and biodynamic producers. "It's 98 per cent Italian, with a number of Italian varieties from other places, too," says Cibej. "Vermentino from the Barossa, for instance, and a fiano and a sangiovese from McLaren Vale."
Sydney architect Anthony Gill is behind the design. He also did the Vini and Berta fit-outs, and Bacco's interiors follow a similar enoteca style with black Tolix chairs, terrazzo tables, dark-green leather banquettes and glossy timber panelling.
While Bacco is a little larger than Vini and Berta, essentially the mood will be the same. "Smaller is becoming bigger," says Cibej. "There's no reason not to come by."
Bacco Osteria e Espresso, shop 1, 2-12 Angel Pl (entry via Ash St), Sydney, NSW; Espresso & Bar open Mon-Fri 7am-8.30pm; restaurant open Mon-Fri noon-midnight, Sat 5.30pm-midnight.