Pilu at Freshwater
In common with many of the world's other great culinary capitals, Italian food in Sydney is becoming more regional, and the city's food scene is all the richer for it. As a founding member of the Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia — a body of a dozen or so eateries dedicated to safeguarding Italy’s culinary culture — Sardinian-born Giovanni Pilu can certainly be counted as an early proponent of a philosophy that eschews promiscuity between regions and homogenous versions of the cuisine.
The approach at his eponymous beachside restaurant in Freshwater is straightforward: traditional Sardinian techniques are applied to the best ingredients New South Wales has to offer. Some recipes are tweaked slightly to better suit the product, but others — including Pilu’s cured meat ragu — are sacrosanct, and for this reason some product must be imported from back home.
“We’re not the food police,” Pilu explains. “We're not going to tell anyone else what to do, but we wanted to form an alliance of chefs that stay true to regional values. Sardinian food is particularly distinctive because the region is an island, and there are a lot of non-Italian influences on account of its colorful history.”
The distinctive, rugged cooking of the region is exactly what makes Pilu stand out. The chef revels in classic peasant dishes such as pane carasau, a paper-thin crisp bread; fregola, hand rolled semolina pasta; culurzones, a gratifyingly salty potato and pecorino filled ravioli; and bottarga, which Pilu makes in-house.
Diners are advised to opt for the Taste of Sardinia, a resolutely seasonal tasting menu that currently includes grilled scampi with sea urchin butter; ravioli of potato, mint and pecorino with burnt butter, sage and black truffle; and the chef’s legendary roast suckling pig, served on the bone with traditional Sardinian condiments amidst a hushed reverence broken only by the crackle of perfectly cooked pig’s skin.
Pilu and team have attracted an array of accolades, most importantly a Two-Chef-Hat rating in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide — Australia’s premier restaurant authority — for six years. The carefully curated wine list receives a great deal of attention too, showcasing
70 bins sourced from Sardinia and a good selection of wines from New South Wales.
Enoteca Italiana, Bangkok
In Bangkok’s exclusive Sukhumvit district an unassuming single-storey house plays host to Thailand’s premier Italian dining experience. A bar piled high with imported meats and cheeses and a walk-in wine cage hint at the gastronomic journey that awaits. Nicola Bonazza doubles as owner and sommelier-in-chief, presiding over a 300-strong exclusively Italian list with aplomb.
In the kitchen, his team deals primarily in
re-imagined and occasionally deconstructed Italian classics.
Volo Cosi, Tokyo
Tucked away in an unfashionable suburb of Tokyo is this little nugget of Italian flavour. Some five years ago chef Daisuke Nishiguchi — fresh from an eight-year sojourn cooking in many of Italy’s leading restaurants — returned home and opened Volo Cosi in a former French bistro. The decor has changed little, but the Venetian-led food and buzzing, friendly atmosphere have become elevated to semi-legendary status. Well-sourced ingredients, simply but beautifully executed, make for an authentic — and hugely popular — experience.