Review: Sagra (Sydney, NSW)

62 Stanley Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
+61 2 8307 0430
http://www.sagrasydney.com.au/

It’s so hard to find a good honest Italian restaurant these days – we’re not talking flamboyant $50-per-dish Guy Grossi masterpieces or anglicised Lygon Street ‘Forza Italia, bro’-type dishes. We’re talking about simple and understated dishes made with only the freshest ingredients and a sprinkling of love.

Thankfully, Sagra delivers on all those promises and a lot more in a cosy timber-lined dwelling that looks more like someone’s home in the inner ‘burbs than one of Sydney’s hottest restaurants. Having been completely out of the loop when it came to the Sydney dining scene, I had actually never heard of this place until Raphael (my go-to guide for anything to do with Sydney and food) mentioned it to me. I love a good Italian (lol) so with that in mind, I suggested pretty much forced my fellow Melbourne dining companions Sam and Nee, who were in Sydney with me for the weekend, to come dine with me.

The booking was made for 8:30PM (or was it 9:00PM? I can’t remember – either way, it was definitely a late dinner). We rocked up half an hour early and assumed that there was a bar area but unfortunately, there was one. With clear directions to disappear to a nearby bar (we didn’t, we just ended up walking around aimlessly), we then arrived back in time for our scheduled booking. Our table wasn’t ready so we stood awkwardly outside the restaurant in the cold with one of the waiters greasy-ing us from inside.

Bread and olives
Bread and olives

Finally, our table was ready. We started off with bread and olives – I can’t remember if they were on the house or if we paid for them. I think we might have paid for them though because the menu says that bread is $4.

Salumi misti: San Daniele prosciutto, coppa and farinata ($21)
Salumi misti: San Daniele prosciutto, coppa and farinata ($21)

Splitting a bottle of Friuli Isonzo Pinot Grigio between us, we got to work with the salumi platter. We shared some San Daniele prosciutto and coppa, the dry-cured muscle that runs from the pig’s neck to the shoulder. And what’s a farinata, you ask? It’s a crispy thin, unleavened pancake made with chickpea flour. It made for a nice change from your usual lavosh and breadsticks.

Carb fest: tortellini in brodo ($19); gnocchi with cavolo nero and gorgonzola ($16); pappardelle with pork sausage ragu ($18); rosemary potatoes ($7)
Carb fest: tortellini in brodo ($19); gnocchi with cavolo nero and gorgonzola ($16); pappardelle with pork sausage ragu ($18); rosemary potatoes ($7)

All the homemade pasta! I had the tortellini in brodo; the broth was lovely and delicate while each little parcel held a tasty chicken filling. It was the perfect dish to sooth my tired soul. Meanwhile, Sam’s pappardelle was tasty and rich, but he did say that he would have been happier with a bigger portion. Nee’s gnocchi was another fantastic dish – each little pillow was soft and buttery, soaking up the rich and creamy gorgonzola like a sponge.

Oh yeah, we also had potatoes.

Tiramisu; hazelnut tart
Tiramisu; hazelnut tart

But of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert. Like the rest of Sagra’s menu, the dessert menu changes all the time so you never know what you were going to get. We ended up with two safe options: the tiramisu and the hazelnut tart. I liked that the tiramisu was light and well-balanced. Meanwhile, the hazelnut tart was nice enough but it did skew towards the ‘more sugar, not enough nuts’ side for me.

The service at Sagra might not be warm and caring Sicilian grandmother-like but everything seemed to run like clockwork on a busy Friday night. The food was beautiful and unpretentious – the sort of Italian that I wished we saw more of in Australia. The best bit is that it doesn’t hit the wallet or stomach hard. Sure, it was a carb-heavy meal but the portions were well-controlled so we left without feeling like we needed to doze off – which was just as well because we needed to stay awake for a crazy night out at ivy (groan).

Sagra Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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