I am a freelance reviewer in Sydney, and lover of sharing my experiences in all things food, wine, entertainment and travel related.
Published September 28th 2012
A Hidden Italian Gem in Woolloomooloo
Puntino Trattoria is a beautifully quaint, authentic Italian restaurant located at the Woolloomooloo end of Crown Street in Sydney, and despite being located on the quieter end of this street, this unsuspecting location is home to a true Italian restaurant gem.
The minute I walk in I am greeted by the friendly hospitality of the staff who make me feel right at home. I soon realise that one of them is in fact the owner and chef himself – Mr Tony Sabia. There is something nice about seeing the face and name behind this restaurant and I immediately know I am in for a great experience.
The restaurant has undergone some renovations and reworked its menu to a more authentically regional voice, with inspirations from Basilicata in Southern Italy, where Tony and his family are from. If you have never heard of Basilicata, it is essentially the Achilles heel of the boot on the map of Italy, so we can expect rustic, enriched, coastal Italian food.
The new look restaurant features indoor and outdoor dining with a courtyard. Recycled jam jars make for the low strung lights, and the walls are adorned with black and white illustrations of Roman ceramics, while the plain, unclothed wooden tables make for a modern yet homely feel. There is a kitchen out the back and the woodfire pizza oven is located to the right of the entry, so I decide to sit here and watch the action.
Perusing the menu, it focuses on wood-fired dishes – everything from meats, pizzas and desserts, all cooked to perfection in the master-built oven, as well as the usual Italian staples of pasta, gnocchi, salads and antipasto.
Simplicity reigns supreme at this restaurant, where diners enjoy simple, homemade foods, and you can't help but feel like you are in Tony's home. What's more is that this restaurant is excellent value when compared to other local options, without compromising the quality of its food and solid menu.
I am told that the pasta and gnocchi here is made fresh every day on the premises by Tony and his mother, and the pizza dough's are given ample time to rise in order to allow the proper fermentation process to occur, which results in outstanding pizza bases which are tasty and easier to digest. All of this sounds good to me and I make mental notes to try both a pasta and pizza dish. It's not long before the appetizers arrive at the table. Starting with some cheesy goodness I sample the Cacio Di Cavallo - a smoked Provolone cheese baked in the woodfire oven with shaved black truffles and served with bread. The cheese is delightful and the oils are nicely soaked up by the bread.
Next up is the Calzone Ai Formaggi – a wood-fired pizza folded over with a mozzarella parmesan and garlic filling. Once again, the cheese and carbohydrate goodness is not lost on me, and I savour the beautiful flavours of piping-hot cheese treasures in the dough envelope.
Moving onto something more lighter I sample the calamari salad. The seafood is fresh and tender and is combined perfectly with the zestiness of the lemon and garlic salad dressing and the bitterness of the rocket leaves.
Now we get more serious into our cheeses. Low and behold, arrives the huge Mozzarella Degustation and antipasto platter serving three types of Mozzarella – creamy, smoked and delicate. It is paired with freshly sliced cold cuts, tomatoes, a beautiful vegetable bake, and condiments including pesto sauces and special salts to complement the cheeses – all on one brilliant lazy Susan platter. The cheeses when paired with the salts are sinfully good and I try not to overindulge as I know there are more dishes to come.
A cast iron pan with a medley of assorted mushrooms baked in the wood-fire oven with a selection of secret herbs is next to hit the table. All the mushrooms are super juicy and flavoursome and this dish is bound to be a hit with vegetarians or carnivores.
Now, arrives the much anticipated dish - the handmade Gnocchi, which I hold very high expectations for. Now if you must order one dish, this is the one. The Gnocchi Sorrentino has a light Napolitana sauce with slices of Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil, and the Gnocchi is so tender, fluffy and addictive. It melts in the mouth. Once again, another Vegetarian dish surprisingly takes my fancy. It is rustic, simple and flavoursome, and a must order dish.
Onto the Carbs, we try the Panuozzo in the Di Porchetta - filled with wood-fired roast pork, smoked mozzarella, mayo, arugula, capsicum and onion relish. If it is indeed a sandwich, it is one of the nicest sandwiches I have had. The pizza bread is lightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the centre, and the filling is the perfect mix of flavours.
I am keen to try try the pizzas after understanding more about how they are made, so I sample the Quatro Salumi Pizza – with ham sausage, salami and prosciutto, and the Mr Potato Head pizza, which feature potato, mozzarella, truffle oil, grand padano and rosemary.
The pizzas have the perfect amount and right combination of toppings, using quality classic items, without the need for fad ingredients. They are surprisingly light and easy to eat. Must have something to do with the fermentation process they mentioned.
Last but not least, is dessert. I am surprised I can actually still eat but as the saying goes, there is always room for dessert. I sample the wood-fired ricotta tart which is served with strawberries, and it gives me the sweet touch I needed without being too heavy.
Throughout the evening, staff are knowledgeable, courteous and polite, and with Tony, work together with their long-practiced air of efficient service.
One can see why Puntino Trattoria is loved for its atmosphere and soul food. I can't say enough good things about this place which offers generous portions of delectable Italian food, excellent service and great value for money, not forgetting to mention that the restaurant is also BYO – another huge bonus.
This cosy restaurant ticks all the boxes. Bookings can be made, wine brought along, and all budgets and dietary requirements are catered for.