True Romance at Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

Osteria di Russo & Russo is located on Enmore Road and has been a local favourite for over 10 years. Over this time they've had many chefs but their latest chef is Jowoon Oh who infuses Italian dishes with Korean flavours and ingredients. Find out what is on the menu and what you should order when you visit!

It was a rainy night when we reached Osteria di Russo & Russo on busy Enmore Road. The restaurant has been open for 11 years in Sydney, a big achievement by anyone's measure in this fickle city, replete with restaurants. But when we enter the restaurant it's full. There are groups of friends as well as romantic dinners with hands held over candlelight flickering in antique glassware. Russo & Russo is owned by father and son Pino and Marc Russo. Marco is on the floor making sure that everyone has what they need. The staff are friendly and they wish me a Happy Birthday.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

It was a hard choice when trying to pick somewhere for my birthday dinner but it was Osteria Russo & Russo's spin on Italian food that had me curious. Russo & Russo's secret weapon is Head Chef Jowoon Oh. In fact it was Monica who went here and tried their food. She's proudly Italian and a tough critic of food but she was taken by his spin on Italian food. He moved to Australia 12-13 years ago nad before working here he was Casoni where they also lean towards Asian Italian food. "Coming to Australia exposed me to new cultures and people, which made me realize how closed and narrow my thinking had been. The cultural shock and the opportunity for growth encouraged me to settle down here," he says.

His philosophy is simple, "I prioritize fermentation, systems, and maintaining reasonable prices above all. I always hope that people leave feeling satisfied. My cuisine fundamentally rests on Italian roots, but I incorporate unseen Asian touches and a bistro feel. The fundamental umami and seasoning in my dishes are based on Korean fermentation techniques I’ve mastered. When I first came to Russo, it felt like an Italian restaurant from the 70s or 80s, and I’ve tried to preserve that vibe in my work." And how is this fusion received by patrons? " My food generally receives a natural acceptance from most Italian guests, though there are always a few who say it’s not Italian, and I respect that opinion," says Jowoon.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Aleppo Pepper & Garlic Focaccia, Coppertree Butter $4pp

There is an a la carte menu as well as a tasting menu but I know exactly what I want so we go a la carte. I'm getting bossy here (what's new, you ask) but you must start with the focaccia. It's soft and fresh and very moist in texture. Their version is made with rye flour, molasses and garlic with a chilli crust. When I ask Marc how they manage to get this so moist with rye flour (that can be a bit dry) he goes to ask Jowoon and comes back with his quote, "I’m an excellent baker". But later Jowoon gives more details. He uses rye and whole semolina flour from Wholegrain Milling with Mount Zero olive oil, espelette pepper and confit garlic. Another element is their It 100-year-old sourdough starter that Jowoon acquired from a friend as a gift. "We’ve been feeding it with rye for three years. Unlike the quick yeast-leavened focaccias I found here initially, this naturally leavened bread undergoes a day-long fermentation process," he explains.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Gnocco Fritto, Scallop Crudo $6 ea

The gnocco fritto was not what I was envisaging but that's absolutely fine because it's delicious. It is diced raw scallops on a fried gnocchi style donut with garlic, smoked macadamia and vanilla dressing served in a scallop shell.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Tuna Carpaccio, Mandarin, Persimmon, Whipped Cod Roe $27

The tuna carpaccio is handkerchief thin folds of tuna, cubes of mandarin, finely shaved persimmon whipped cod roe. This is absolutely superb, one of the best raw tuna dishes that I've eaten as it is balances the tuna with the sweet fruit and whipped cod roe. "Should we ask for more bread?" I whisper to Mr NQN who nods eagerly.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Bone Marrow, Nduja, Capers, Mozzarella Crocchette $27

Likewise the bone marrow is about balance. Normally Mr NQN finds bone marrow too rich but this bone marrow is topped with nduja, capers and mustard that straddles richness and piquancy. Spoon the marrow out and then follow it with bite of the molten centered mozzarella croquette.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Mafaldine, Mussel Butter, Morton Bay Bug, Bottarga $39

Sometimes you just need a big bowl of pasta and the mafaldine arrives in all of its visual glory. There's a generous tangle of house made squid ink mafaldine sauced with mussel butter and shrimp bisque and perfectly tender Hibachi grilled bug meat removed from the shell. "OK we need bread for this," says Mr NQN who normally does not request anything but that sauce is so lusciously rich and delicious that it would be a crime to leave a drop behind.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Swordfish Cotoletta, Sourdough, Nduja, Sorrel $42

I adore swordfish cotoletta every since trying it at Morena and when I saw it on the menu I had to order it. The swordfish is luscious and aged in koji inside a crunchy sourdough crumb coating. It sits in a scarlet puddle of nduja asnd bonito, that gives this a gutsiness and the lemony sorrel gives it freshness. Again the balance. "Dare I ask for more bread?" I said to Mr NQN. And yep we did.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Parmigiano Reggiano Custard, Figs, Sourdough $16

It was only this year that I said that I needed more savoury custard in my life and there it was on the menu, a Parmigiano Reggiano custard with slices of fresh fig on crunchy sourdough toasts. On top is a very generous shaving of parmesan cheese that intensifies it further. This is for your savoury loving friend who doesn't want to miss out on dessert but also doesn't want a traditional cheese plate.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore
Chestnut Cannoli, Quince, Almond, Butterscotch $9

The chestnut cannoli are two perfectly crunchy cannoli with butterscotch and almond cake, with poached quince and ground chestnuts in a buckwheat-infused cream and crunchy buckwheat grouts at the end. And this comes some toasted marshmallows, a candle and a round of Happy Birthday.

"Would you have some of my father's limoncello?" asks Marc and we readily agree.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

By now I'm convinced that we've racked up a massive bill for bread eating at least 6 slices of it (But Your Honour, the sauces!) but it turns out the price is $4 per person not per slice. It's generous little details like that that keep people coming back again and again and perhaps part of the reason why it has stood the test of time after so many years.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

So tell me Dear Reader, where did you eat for your last birthday? What sort of places do you tend to choose?

This meal was independently paid for.

Osteria di Russo & Russo, Enmore

Osteria di Russo & Russo Enmore

158 Enmore Rd, Enmore NSW 2042

Phone: (02) 8068 5202

Tuesday to Thursday: 6–9 pm

Friday & Saturday 6–10 pm

Sunday & Monday closed

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