Being less common and familiar to us Sydney-siders, it was with excitement and intrigue that I visited Popolo in Rushcutters Bay, which opened to rave reviews earlier this year with its southern Italian offerings.
|Bellini at Popolo, McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay|
Bright and airy during a Sunday lunch, it was entirely appropriate to start with a bellini, made with peach puree and topped with prosecco and an orange zest garnish that tried to poke the drinker's eyes out.
|Bread and olive oil|
Despite the base and crust of the pizza being a little thicker than I was expecting, the pizza still went a little soggy with the load of fresh and tasty tomato sauce and so was best eaten with cutlery or folded over.
The stretchy, melted buffalo mozzarella cheese was an absolute highlight, of the day even, with the pretty but impractical whole basil leaf garnish.
|Carpaccio di gamberi - prawn carpaccio with housemade sour cream, capers, freeze dried mandarin|
Oil and a hint of vinegar lightly dressed the prawn carpaccio with segments of freeze-dried mandarin adding the finishing citrusy touch to an unusual but spectacular daily special.
|Fregola with blue swimmer crab and tomato|
Featuring picked blue swimmer crab flesh and a crab leg, the hearty and firm fregola pasta basked in a fresh tomato sauce with delectable hints of the sea and soft, squishy cherry tomatoes.
|Squid ink tagliatelle with heirloom tomatoes, poached tuna belly and bottarga|
|Pesce - market fish of Spanish mackerel with cauliflower and white bean puree|
The thick fillets of Spanish mackerel were very well cooked with crisp, golden skin and its meaty flesh retaining moisture. While a beautiful fillet of fish, the mackerel dish could have used some bigger flavours and even a cheek of lemon wouldn't have gone to waste.
|Rocket and grana padano salad|
|N & C - coffee-scented white chocolate, hazelnut mousse, hazelnut crumble|
I could barely manage one mouthful of the deceptively petite dessert of chocolate cream, hazelnut mousse and nutty praline. It was both one of the smallest and richest desserts I've tasted, felling the rest of the table with its intense sweetness and creaminess.
We could have sat and lingered with the chilled Sunday lunch crowd, drinking the afternoon away people watching, although there isn't too much of a view other than the well-heeled locals. While it's not a trip to Naples or the Amalfi Coast, Popolo's bringing a part of southern Italy to the people of Sydney.