Is it the seeming effortlessness? The hint of insouciance? What is it about Wilmer, Alfio's and The Eat In, the Sydney pop-ups from a cooks' collective called Full Circle, that captures the sense of being in Italy, the real sprezzatura, more than just about any other Italian place in the country?
Maybe it's the food. It has always married home-kitchen honesty with restaurant quality. None of the people leading the charge – Daniel Johnston (Vini, Hubert, Bacco), Harry Levy (Acme, Bar Brosé), and Tom Merryweather among them – has a name that ends in a vowel, yet they nail it time and again.
Explore the question in detail this summer as the guys unveil Don Peppino's, a temporary "good times Italian restaurant" on the storied Oxford Street site of the Grand Pacific Blue Room.
The former nightclub, they say, is "full of hazy memories and good times that is stinging to have some new life breathed back into it", taking their travels in Italy as inspiration. "Like that time in Palermo when we danced outside the tratt, in the street, with the waiters in the rain," or "down south, at the bar on the beach where we skinny dipped between primi and secondi."
And the food? We're pleased to report that it'll change day by day. If you'd like a mood-board, though, Johnston offers that they like to cook their broad beans with tomato and bay ("skins on, please"), that the chickpea pasta from Wilmer will likely be back, and that the antipasto bar will be laden with good things from the slicer and "lots of cheese and warm, vinegary vegetables".
"The grecia is still a work in progress but I can tell you that our ragù bianco is a perfect marriage of pork, rabbit and chicken thigh, cooked together, long and slow," he adds. "The minestra recipe comes straight from our friends' restaurant, Di Pietro, in Melito Irpino. And the lemon sorbet will most likely come in a lemon cup. But what does the ricotta gelato go in?"
Johnston says there's room for about 60 at dinner. As for dancing, "that depends on how many tables are pushed aside as to dance floor space (we only have a restaurant license, but you can't stop people if they want to)". And to drink? "Harry and Sam are pulling together nice wine times. And yes, I'm pretty sure the half-Negroni will be back."
We're not sure what the mid-meal skinny-dipping options are like on lower Oxford Street in 2018, but we think it's going to be a lot of fun looking into it. See you there, Sydney.