2 Elizabeth St, Paddington 2021, NSW, Australia
Saturday: 9am-4pm, Sunday: 10am-4pm
(02) 9331 0088
“You know when you bring Nonna, it means business” – Joe Cipri
Meet Giovanna, my Nonna.
As the self-proclaimed head of the family, Giovanna is an expert at Westfield parking, Christmas nativity decorations complete with running water fountains and moving parts, dressing for anything from your cousin’s christening to your sister’s brother’s engagement party, and the host of our bi-weekly family dinner. Most of all, she is notoriously known as the best cook around. I’m not bias, it’s a fact. Ask any Italian with tastebuds in the eastern suburbs. So I thought it only fitting to bring the Don to dine with me at Sicilian-born Cipri Brothers’ newest creation, Barbetta Paddington. A sentiment echoed by Joe Cipri himself upon our arrival – “You know when you bring Nonna, it means business”
Unlike its older brother ‘Cipri Italian’, Barbetta is a modern, young and laidback approach to Italian dining. Open Monday-Friday until 6 and on weekends until 4, they specialise in inventive takes on Sydney breakfast favourites and authentic dishes amongst a minimalistic locale. Think earthy tones, sleek booths, dim lighting in circular bulbs and an open floor plan allowing for restaurant, store, bar and kitchen to merge together seamlessly under the one roof.
As we walk in one thing is for certain, in true Giovanna style she already knows the owners. She informs me that the Cipri family are a household name in the Italian community and their restaurants and food are second to none. She’s ready to test the theory. We order a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling– inoffensive to the palate and perfect to pair with Italian cuisine.
First cab off the rank is Nonna’s signature, Polpette ($25). Homemade pork and veal meatballs with tomato passata and crusty bread. We were blown away. Not only was the meat soft, well-cooked and seasoned perfectly but the sauce complimented; light and flavoursome with both the meatballs and on bread alone.
“Almost identical to mine!”…Giovanna is more than impressed. She proudly announces her score, a perfect ten, and quickly delves into a lecture about how you can tell a true authentic Italian meatball from its lesser Australian counterparts by its size and less ball-like appearance. As a set of three, we actually wished we’d ordered two servings they were that fantastic. Nonna is not one for delving out from the traditional but the prospect of having these in a burger (Barbetta Polpetta Burger ($21)) will send hoards running to this establishment without a doubt.
Creating six kilos of fresh and dry pasta every day, we had high hopes for our mains. Giovanna’s Fusilli Pasta Povera ($21) is the kind of traditional southern dish that harps on nostalgia like no other. Crisp heads of broccoli, sweet, plump cherry tomatoes and a pesto infused with anchovies mean that even if you’re not a fan of fish, you’ll enjoy this meal. The anchovies are subtle, while the sauce itself is used sparingly so as not to overpower the fusilli, al-dente. She dons the dish a nine.
The outing wouldn’t have been complete without testing if the Cipri’s lasagna was indeed the Best Ever Lasagna ($22), promising to plate up a ‘traditional homemade Bolognese’. With an almost sweeter version of the previous sauce, Giovanna concludes ‘it’s very close but not the best she’s had’. However, what we did love the most was the ratio of Bolognese to pasta layers; something overlooked by most Italian restaurants in Sydney. You actually feel like you’re eating a pasta dish that is consistent in flavour as opposed to an overkill of sauce. She decides on an eight.
To finish, we order coffee and cake. The Macchiato ($3) is smooth and familiar. Of course, it’s Toby’s Estate. A ten from both of us. We pair it with a traditional Neapolitan ricotta cake (Pastiera Napoletana ($3-9)) with hints of orange that brighten the creamy grit of the cheese and wheat. With a hearty number of ingredients, we finish on an eight. As we wait, I walk into the glasshouse to the side of the dining area. Inside, Barbetta’s in-house pastry chef is in the process of making chocolates from scratch; swishing the melted dark liquid into intricate moulds. Beside him is an unmistakably proud Italian in bright red glasses and a paperboy cap. Channelling Barbetta’s slick, vintage aesthetics, he cuts the pasta as it’s fed out of the machine. It is abundantly clear everyone in-store loves their jobs, their heritage and the ability for this restaurant to not only provide traditional Italian food, but also the authentic means of production by which it is originally made.
Even the salt is Italian.
This passion and reverence for Cipri family values is infused into everything about the place, including the service of the wait staff which was impeccable. Giovanna insists on a special mention about the aprons, which gave the staff a casual effortlessness to them whilst they spoke both Italian and English to patrons.
Overall, Giovanna more than approves – and once you’ve got Nonna on your side, there’s really nothing you can’t do.