The newest Italian restaurant by the Ormeggio crew Sotto Sopra is located on Barrenjoey Road in Newport. A curved glass shaped restaurant you might pause for a beat at the front door. The name means upside down or more literally down up and the kitchen is perched high up on the first floor while the dining is on the ground floor.
The chef Mattia Rossi is originally from Rome while the menu centres around an imported Italian wood-fired oven from Marana in Verona. The most eye catching spot in the house is an enormous blue glass and chestnut wood communal table that seats 16 people. Mr NQN and I are here for a late Sunday lunch at 2:30pm with Louise and Viggo.
They steer us towards a sharing menu of which there are two (a regular and a premium one) but having had a meagre portioned one at Chiosco we didn't go for this and instead went a la carte.
Our first bite is the lightly smoked prosciutto, with not black figs but green (but they are luscious so it doesn't matter) and truffled honey with thin crispy Sicilian wood fired rosemary flat bread. The truffle is light in this along with the smoke (the food is very gently gently in all flavours we find here) but it is a lovely way to start the meal.
Viggo and I were interested to see what the garlic bread was like. While it is cute, served in a little cast iron pot with thyme sprigs it really doesn't have a lot of garlic of butter in it. It's served hot and fresh though but don't expect a lot of garlic or butter.
The presentation of this dish is strikingly beautiful. There's burrata, lemon, basil and shaved bottarga atop a blanket of albacore tuna carpaccio. Again this is very mildly flavoured, perhaps so as not to overwhelm the creamy burrata and tuna but a little pop of something would have been nice.
Have you heard if honey bugs? They're actually just small balmain bugs called honey because they are smaller and said to be sweeter (which makes Louise guffaw with laughter). The orecchiette has a moreish texture and the broccoli sauce has small pieces of bug meat in it (readers outside Australia, Balmain bugs are a type of seafood like scampi, not an insect). Out of the two pasta dishes I prefer this one.
The ravioli has a range of flavours, quite a few indeed including pinenuts, sultanas, butter, sage and cocoa. None of us are a huge fan of the cocoa which gives the dish a slight dessert-y aspect but the ox tail filling is good.
We ordered two meat mains to share from the wood fired oven. The first thing we think as we lift back the pastry shell is boullibaise. It's a seafood stew with plenty of saffron infused soup and seafood like mussels, white fish, octopus, prawns, tomato and parsley. The more I have of this the more I like it although this isn't a dish for sharing at all really. The pastry isn't quite made for dipping in the soup and the octopus is tough but the rest of the seafood is very tender.
The Roman style porchetta is a real crowd pleaser. Also done in the wood fired oven it is cooked overnight and comes as several thinly sliced pieces of porchetta laced with rosemary and fennel pollen with a salsa verde and pickled red cabbage and a wedge of toasted schiacciata bread (which we actually use to dip in the Cacciucco pie). There's a good amount of seasoning, appealingly crunchy crackling and soft meat - this is the perfect Italian Sunday roast.
Usually Viggo is really easy going with the menu but he piped up "Tiramisu!" when I asked if there was anything that anyone wanted to try. A serve is dished up from a large tray and the tiramisu here is a little dry. It doesn't really seem as though made from savoiardi, rather a sheet of sponge so you don't get those delightful dollops of mascarpone between the fingers.
We saved our admiration for the divine caramelised mango tart (probably my favourite dish of the day). The caramelised mango tart is an upside down tarte tatin where the crispy, buttery layered pastry is on the bottom and on top is sweet caramelised mango. We also love the tangy lime sorbet and the whole dessert hits the right notes for sweetness, tangyness, crispiness and creaminess. In fact on the way home we stop off to buy some mangoes to try to make this at home we like it so much!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever eaten something and then gone out to buy the ingredients to make it at home? And do you usually try the banquet menu or do you prefer to go a la carte?
This meal was independently paid for.
316-324 Barrenjoey Road, G04 The Palms, Newport NSW 2106
Phone: (02) 9997 7009