Since opening in mid-February, Surry Hills trattoria Pellegrino 2000 has been attracting a stream of visitors for its Italian delights. Topping the charts are prawn ravioli, quail saltimbocca and pickled artichokes.
“It’s been nice and steadily busy,” Andy Tyson (ex-Restaurant Hubert, Alberto’s Lounge) tells Broadsheet. The sommelier and venue manager co-owns the restaurant with chefs Dan Pepperell and Mikey Clift (ex-Rockpool Dining Group) – it’s an Italian-accented follow-up to their hit first joint venue, Potts Point’s Bistrot 916.
Where many restaurant owners begin with a concept, then look for a venue, the process happened the other way around for the trio.
“We weren’t planning an Italian restaurant,” says Tyson. “We saw the space – an old terrace, built in 1915, on a corner – and felt it was very much something you’d find in Florence or Rome.”
With that, the decision was made to transform the building – which once housed Hamish Ingham’s lauded Bar H – into Pellegrino 2000. Taking inspiration from garage-style trattorias, the trio decorated the space with framed vintage photographs, packets of pasta, bottles of olive oil and fresh tomatoes, and fitted it out with a warm palette of gold, burnt orange and red.
A neon light reading “2000” leads you downstairs to a moody wine cellar, where the walls are lined with Italian bottles; it doubles as an intimate candlelit, gingham table-clothed dining room. In the buzzy upstairs space, you’ll find the bar, brown-leather banquettes, big picture windows, and a mix of indoor and outdoor seating. On a warm evening, the hot ticket is to nab a stool on the footpath, at a window counter that faces inside to the bar.
Pepperell’s approach of taking classic dishes and putting his own spin on them – a trademark in his past roles at French bistro Restaurant Hubert, and Italian diners Alberto’s Lounge and 10 William St – is again on display here, though perhaps more subtly than in the past.
So far, one of the biggest hits is the luxurious prawn ravioli, laced with prosciutto and bathed in a rich brown butter-and-sage sauce. Then there’s the quail saltimbocca: a whole quail butterflied, pan-roasted, and served on a bed of sauce with porcini mushrooms. And don’t miss the zesty artichokes, pickled at the very beginning of the season, then dressed with lemon and parsley. Every dish definitely deserves a side helping of house-made bread with truffle butter.
And going hard at dessert is well in order – creme caramel comes accompanied by a tower of banana-infused whipped cream, while the tart “limongello” sees Pepperell’s creativity shine: limoncello-flavoured jelly is served in lemon peel, in place of the fruit’s usual pulpy flesh.
On Tyson’s wine list you’ll find mainly Italian drops, but there’s a scattering of Australians, too.
“The focus is on new generation, up-and-coming producers, alongside really old bottlings of classic wines, like chianti and brunello,” says Tyson. “We get them from around 50 different sources, ranging from personal collections to importers.”
Before or after wine, do be tempted by a cocktail. As with the food, the focus is on Italian classics, each with a little something extra. The Bellini, for example, is made with peach, prosecco, and a sherry blend, while the Amaro Shakerato is a sour, but with an amaro blend. There’s also a big collection of Italian amari and grappas.
Less Italian is the soundtrack, which Tyson describes as “an upbeat, eclectic mix”, bringing together West African, Middle Eastern, and Italian pop tracks.
80 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8593 0114
Mon to Thu 5pm–10.30pm
Fri & Sat 5pm–11.30pm