The "del Mare" (by the sea) part of the name is easy. A decent arm could hurl a cricket ball into the shore break of Cronulla Beach. The Fratelli (brothers) is stretching things. With the two owners both running by the name Paul, I figured these weren't in reality a pair of Italian siblings. In fact Paul Breheny and Paul Farrugia are brothers-in-law and their long standing restaurant has been a decade long blue chip constant for diners down by the beach in The Shire.
Peruse both their pedigrees and it's hardly surprising Fratelli del Mare has stood the test of time. Paul Breheny is host and cook half of 7 Two's high rating TV show The Hook and the Cook. He also teaches hospitality and commercial cooking at TAFE and at William Angliss Institute. Paul Farrugia, aka Fudge (yes, even his wife calls him Fudge) spent years plying his trade in the kitchens of Europe, particularly around the French and Italian Alps. Keeping it all in the family, he also teaches hospitality and cooking at TAFE.
Given the restaurant's name, the immediate assumption is that this is an establishment lifted straight from the rolling hills of Tuscany or Umbria and planted back down by the sea. Read the menu however, and you will realise Fratelli del Mare, while faithful to its Italian roots, experiments way beyond pizza, pasta and meatballs in tomato sauce.
If you eat from the ethos "if you can't see the ocean, don't order the fish", you will be safe here. You may not be able to eye off the beach around the corner but you can smell the salt in the air. This is reflected in the blackboard specials which rotate daily and are heavy on produce dragged "del mare", all with modern Australian twists.
My wife and I stuck to the Italian side of the ledger for the entrée and shared a pizza plated up the way it's supposed to be with a simple topping of a few herbs and garlic. For mains, I plumped for the Dorso di Agnello, a char grilled lamb back strap on a parsley puree with broccolini and salsa verde. The wife went for the warm Mediterranean salad. I don't know what the translation for ooh la la is in Italian but both were superb. I'll also give myself a pat on the back with my BYO choice of a First Creek Tasmanian Pinot Noir - like an angel crying on my tongue.
If you are planning a Sunday lunch at Fratelli's then here's a tip - don't eat breakfast. The two Pauls dish up a $35 six course fixed menu: Garlic Pizza, Calamari, Mediterranean Salad, Penne with King Prawns, Herb Crusted Chicken and finish it off with the gelato. Wash all that down with $5 beers and the same price for a glass of the house wine and you won't need dinner either.
Forget elaborate décor here. The ambience is understated and unpretentious. Fratelli del Mare is ALL about the food, food of the highest quality meticulously prepared with the freshest of ingredients that keeps a solid legion of faithfuls returning on a regular basis. It may be different culinary strokes for different folks but you won't leave here disillusioned.