It’s the neighbourhood Italian restaurant you’ve been waiting for
It looks like this little pocket of the Eastern suburbs is finally on a winning streak when it comes to snacking. Newly opened Riley Street Garage is just up the road, along with Café Paci and Red Lantern; the Hazy Rose and Love Tilly Devine are just across the way and now Sagra joins the gang, offering deceptively simple Italian food in a sweet corner setting. Double-plus yay for the fact you can book, too.
Start with an aperitivo (the menu outside says Saturday is Negroni day) or cut straight to the chase and order a bottle of the elegant, pared back ‘Greto’ lambrusco from Paltrinieri. It’s our favourite drink-it-with-everything Italian red fizz and at only $42 a bottle, you can order two and still come out winning.
By our count there are 11 tables inside. That’s 11 chances to get at the garlic soup, which sees roasted new-season Australian garlic cloves puréed with olive oil, bread, pepper and cheese. It’s succor to those dented by the evening before.
The menu pretty much reads like a roll call of things you’ll want to eat. There’ll be complimentary Sicilian green olives and house-made bread to start, then you’d best move onto the light, crisp zucchini flowers stuffed with a fine dice of zucchini, mint, lemon and pecorino. Stick a fork into the thinly sliced-and-grilled ox heart, laid over a little fava bean purée for a bit of gutsy char.
So this is 30-year-old Nigel Ward’s place. He’s done time at Sean’s Panaroma, Lucio's and has just spent the last couple of years in London working the pans at smart trattoria, Trullo. It’s a Do It Himself labour of love, from the restaurant renovations, to the house-made bread and the big firm rags of tagliatelle caught with a juicy blonde ragu of wild boar.
The menu changes a little every day, and a lot every week. That goes for the wine list, too. So while we’re all excited about a sweet, buttery and warm pear frangipane tart tempered with a blob of crème fraîche, it could very well do a disappearing act on your visit. Sorry.
What we can tell you is this tiny neighbourhood Italian restaurant is pitched perfectly for local and wandering food fans alike, offering big bang for relatively little buck (they do a weekday lunch special of a main course and glass of wine for just $20).
And that, in our books, constitutes a jumping high five.