Restaurant News

Just in: CicciaBella opens on Monday with ex-Acme chef Mitch Orr in the kitchen

With the Icebergs team rallying around him, the chef can return to what he does best.

By Yvonne C Lam
What do you do if you've recently closed your Sydney restaurants, but still have talent to burn? You join one of the most successful hospitality groups in town, and keep doing what you do best – cooking.
When Italian osteria CicciaBella opens in Bondi this Sunday, it marks chef Mitch Orr's return to the pans after closing Acme in June, the Rushcutters Bay alt-Italian restaurant he co-owned. CicciaBella has taken over the space once occupied by Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta, and is backed by Maurice Terzini and Rachel Duffy from the Icebergs Group (Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Bondi Beach Public Bar, The Dolphin Hotel).
The brief is pizzetta and pasta, but with a little Acme DNA folded through. That fried calzone stuffed with mortadella, mozzarella and tomato sauce? Consider it the Acme Baloney Sandwich: The Next Evolution. That seven-strong list of pasta, short and long? Sure, it's missing the sisig-like pig's head macaroni – just one shining example of the Asian-inspired playfulness that made Acme so distinctive – but it's a celebration of Orr's pasta-making skills honed through years at Pilu at Freshwater, 121BC and a stint at Osteria Francescana.
Fusilli with blue swimmer crab and preserved-lemon butter. Photo: Jason Loucas
That garlic pizza fritta, touted as a menu must-order before the doors have swung open? Orr initially toyed around with doing a "shitty play on garlic bread", but the stars would align otherwise: Terzini is a fan of the fritta, while Orr served a version topped with agrodolce in the final weeks of Acme. The result? Pizza dough folded through with roast garlic purée, deep-fried till crisp, and primed for swiping through the pasta sauce or to eat with antipasti.
The process behind establishing a new eatery isn't new for Orr. Acme and Bar Brose were both well-reviewed restaurants, but both fell victim to the city's fickle and unforgiving dining scene.
But with CicciaBella, the stakes are lower. There's the backing of a large restaurant group to take the financial gamble. And there's back-end infrastructure too, the kind of administrative, marketing and PR support that makes a one-time small business owner cry tears of joy. Plus, there's the "synergy" between Terzini and Orr, the restaurateur acting as a mentor to Orr for the past decade or so.
The one compromise? The music. Acme was notable not just for its food, but also Orr's 2000s-era hip-hop playlists. At CicciaBella, the soundtrack has been outsourced to Carly Roberts of Picnic Touring & Events. "Music is a big thing for Maurice – he's very focused on the vibe and feel he wants in the dining room," says Orr. "But during the day, during prep, I can blast out Gucci Mane."
It's a small price to pay. In July, Orr blamed the "hard-arse winters" for Acme's closure. Now it's spring; new beginnings in beachy, summery Bondi, no less. Orr couldn't script it better.
"It's going to be nice cooking and being creative again with the support of Icebergs," says Orr. "But I'll still try to stir the pot a bit."
CicciaBella opens this Monday 7 October (Monday's service is fully booked) at 75-79 Hall St, Bondi Beach, NSW, (02) 8090 6969, cicciabella.com.au
Open Mon–Fri from 5pm, and Sat–Sun from 12pm.