Come for an aperitif, stay for the wood fire pizza at Secolo Dining.
You never know what’s around the corner Sydney’s CBD. Is that just a regular alley way? Or could it be the gateway to an underground hidden bar, slinging cocktails until the early hours. Tucked into a tight fold off Castlereagh Street is Secolo Dining. Doors opened in September 2017, courtesy of restauranteurs Robert, Anthony and Tanja Arienzale and Head Chef Mario Izzo.
Inside consists of neutral tones, blonde wood, bespoke light fittings and a large wood fire oven. It’s simple and modern with ample seating. But the warmer months lend themselves to alfresco-style dining.
If you take a moment to absorb your surroundings you’ll quickly notice the huge corporate tower peering down on you. It’s not hard to imagine a weekday lunch rush here, busy ANZ workers picking up a quick bite to eat. Or perhaps easing into a relaxed after-work dinner.
Impressively, Secolo is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Peruse the early morning offering and you’ll discover the usual suspects, with an Italian twist: pastries, an Italian breakfast plate, a bacon and egg ciabatta. Then there are dishes you won’t find on your everyday brunch menu. Think ricotta and nduja bruschetta ($18), made using spicy soft salame, charred broccolini, ricotta, toasted almonds, shaved egg and sourdough.
It’s not the breakfast that we are here for though, but rather a midweek dinner. The dull hum of Secolo’s neighbouring bar is the first thing that draws you in. That is, before the enticing scents of focaccia and garlic billowing from Secolo’s impressive Neapolitan pizza oven.
How can you say no to freshly made burrata? The gooey cheese has many delicious sidekicks – roast baby peppers, capers, olives and pangrattato (bread crumbs). Take a big mouthful and you’ll find that the sweet roast peppers play delightfully well against the salty olives and capers. All the while the pangrattato provides a nice crunch. On the whole, it’s a winning starter.
If you’ve arrived with a hefty appetite, the porchetta on wood fired focaccia ($26) won’t disappoint. We’re a little dumbfounded when it first arrives to the table. Thin slices of porchetta make up the first layer on a focaccia base. Next is a hefty drizzle of aioli, no complaints there. It follows with slices of grilled eggplant and fresh cos lettuce leaves. Think we’re done? Nope. The final garnish are huge hunks of pork crackling. We’re a skeptical at first. But it’s equal parts cream, crunch, smoke, salt, tang. Bang! A total flavour explosion.
The pizza menu is classically Italian, presenting a ‘less is more’ approach. The friendly waitstaff tell us that the margherita ($19) is a favourite, comprised simply of tomato, cheese, basil and olive oil. As we bite into the Patata ($24) – made with potatoes, rosemary and pork sausage – we would have to agree. K.I.S.S.
Travel towards the pasta menu for classic, honest, delicious flavour combinations. The rigatoni, laced with delicate crab, garlic butter, chilli and bottarga ($28) is an instant crowd pleaser. We’ll be back to try the pappardelle with beef shin ragu ($26).
As for the drinks, start with an Italian aperitif, or a glass of prosecco. On the wine list, a glass of Fiegl Villa Dugo Pinot Grigio ($9) certainly doesn’t go astray. Nor does a more robust Panizzi Sangiovese ($9 glass).
Made room for dessert? The offering at Secolo is short and sweet – including a classic tiramisu ($10), ricotta cheesecake ($12) and chantilly and raspberry millefogile ($12). The ricotta cheesecake defies regular convention, the biscuit base reminiscent of a sticky, somewhat overly chewy Anzac cookie. The layer of ricotta is light yet creamy, a final embellishment of blueberries lifting the dish.
Next time you’re in the CBD, take a punt on that unsuspecting road and get off the main track. You never know where it may lead you. If you’re lucky enough, you may just find a new favourite restaurant called Secolo.
Shop 3 – Ground Floor, 161 Castlereagh St Sydney
Open Monday 6.30am – 5pm Tuesday – Wednesday 6.30am – 8pm Thursday – Friday 6.30am – 10pm
For more information, you can check out the website here