The comforting hug of an indulgent plate of pasta is the main reason Italian cuisine is my all-time favorite. On average I probably eat pasta at least 2-3 times a week, whether it’s at home or dining out. Just as an upfront disclaimer, I’m highly biased towards pappardelle with ragu and anything with cream and parmesan.
Below is a list of the cream of the crop in Sydney’s pasta world. I love all kinds of pasta, so my view is that it doesn’t matter if the pasta has an Asian flair or if it’s an Americanized bowl of spaghetti. Purists may not agree though.
I’ll keep updating as I continue my pasta journey. I welcome recommendations with open arms, so let me know what your favorite pasta is – I’ll keep adding to the wishlist at the bottom of this post.
The pappardelle bolognese at 10 William St is probably my top pasta dish in Sydney. I heard through the grapevine that the irresistible ragu is made with fish sauce. Whatever is in it, I just want buckets of this stuff. A more in depth rant about 10 William St is here.
The gang that brought us 10 William St started out at Fratelli Paradiso, which is now approaching the 15-year-old mark. The lasagnetta is the best I’ve eaten in Sydney so far. And the spaghetti scampi sings to me like sirens. And you guessed it, the ragu is also incredible. More on Fratelli Paradiso here.
Price range: $22-36 per pasta dish
The pappardelle bolognese, buffalo ricotta, gremolata at the recently refurbed The Dolphin is tasty to the max. Super silky smooth bands of pasta are tossed in an utterly rich bolognese, then finished with blobs of buffalo ricotta. Read more about the deliciousness I ate over two visits at The Dolphin here.
Price range: $28-30 per pasta dish
When it was still Rockpool, I had the hand-rolled strozzapreti with Moreton Bay bug and crustacean butter at the bar. It’s still on the Eleven Bridge menu now that it’s rebranded. The pasta is my idea of umami heaven. Perfectly al dente strozzapreti with a moreish, buttery sauce and topped with sweet, sweet Moreton Bay bug. It’s one of the most refined pasta dishes you can get in Sydney in my opinion.
Price range: $45 for the strozzapreti
Bar Machiavelli, Rushcutters Bay
The chestnut pappardelle with porcini and madeira sauce was mind-blowing. That intense mushroom flavor, those slippery pasta ribbons, and that creamy sauce. I’ll be returning for this pasta without a doubt. The gnoccheti with gorgonzola dolce and a creamy sage sauce was also great, though I probably would have liked a punchier hit of blue cheese in the sauce.
Price range: $28-39 per pasta dish
Silky pasta isn’t the only thing handmade at Kindred – everything from pickles to vincotto is also made from scratch using sustainable ingredients. I loved both the sweet potato triangoli and the pappardelle with beef ragu so I’ll definitely be making my way back to Kindred to try more pasta dishes. Read more about Kindred in this blog post.
Price range: $16-26 per pasta dish
Buon Ricordo, Paddington
THAT famous truffle cream pasta is one of best dishes of all time. Handmade fettuccine is served with an utterly creamy sauce topped with a truffled fried egg. The pasta is of course remarkable, but the dexterous theatrics at the table bring the experience to life. Parmesan is grated at the table, the egg with its oozy yolk is cut up, and then the pasta is tossed together before your ravenous eyes. All that’s left is to dig in.
Does gnocchi count as pasta? I’m always unsure. Regardless, the gnocchi with shredded turkey at Besser is tasty as hell. There are only three pastas (and a 6.30pm risotto) on the menu, and they change all the time. Read more about my visit to Besser here.
The OG before Besser came around, A Tavola, is a bit fancier and a bit more intimate. You can’t go wrong with ragus, I say, and the pappardelle al ragu at A Tavola is excellent. On another occasion I had the incredible spinach and cheese ravioli with truffle pecorino. It goes without saying that the pasta is handmade. Specials are scribbled on the blackboard, which change all the time according to seasonality.
I love the simplicity of the linguine with lemon, chilli and pangrattato at Cafe Sopra. Or the carbonara (done right – without cream). The ragu has awesome depth of flavor, too. The pasta menu is massive, so it’s always a good time dropping in for lunch or dinner.
The lamb ragu is my go-to at my number one lunch haunt Adamo’s (I work nearby-ish). Pasta is made freshly on site, and the amount of choice is mind-boggling. Whether it’s pappardelle (my fav obvs) or tortellini or gnocchi, you get to pick your pasta and your sauce. The possibilities are endless. Most of the sauces are tomato-based, but every day there’s a different special, with some unique seafood creations on Fridays like capellini with salmon, capers and dill. I’ve also picked up fresh pasta on the way home to cook with at home.
In interviews Mitch Orr always goes on about how the pasta he cooks at ACME is not Italian. And it’s definitely not. I don’t know why anyone ever assumes as such. Yes, the menu is largely a pasta catalog, but there are legit no Italian dishes at all. The macaroni with pig’s head and egg yolk is the most popular (read: most instagrammed after the baloney sandwich), and for good reason. But I’ve also fallen in love with the linguine with black garlic and burnt chilli, which bizarrely tastes like mi goreng. Nothing is taboo. Fish balls and kimchi on spaghetti? Why not. More thoughts on ACME here.
Price range: $14-20 per pasta dish (note that portions are small; the usual recommendation is to order two pastas per person, and to share them)
Pasta Emilia mirrors its cozy ambiance with unpretentious, home-style Italian cooking. The tortelli of the day with truffle cream sauce has a cult following. But even better is in fact (surprise, surprise) the ragu. Served with strozzapreti, the beef ragu and parmigianois as good as it gets. The fresh pasta is organic, and you can even buy their fresh pastas and sauces in-store or at select markets.
While at Buffalo Dining Club the spotlight is on buffalo mozzarella, the pasta is ace, too. And I love that it’s very sharing-friendly. The pillowy gnocchi with napolitana is well-balanced and moreish. But the main event for many is the spaghetti cacio e pepe served in a giant pecorino wheel. Rigatoni with pork and fennel sausage ragu is the go if you like your pasta fleshed out with meat (pun intended). I like ’em all.
Following suit after its sister Buffalo Dining, Chester White Cured Diner dishes up a spaghetti cacio e pepe from a giant cheese wheel – but it’s taken up a notch with truffle pecorino. Hello umami. But even better is the Not Chesta carbonara, a rich and irresistible casarecce dish tossed together in a pot at the table. It’s all about that crisp speck and umami mushrooms, conceiving a lush, cheesy thing of beauty.
Price range: $20-22 per pasta dish
I had dinner at Porcorosso a few years ago when it first opened, and was really into the carbonara (though I’m unsure if it’s still on the menu). Recently I’ve also ordered a Porcorosso delivery via Suppertime – an excellent lasagne delivered to your doorstep is my idea of a good time on a Friday night.
There are some things that make sense in life. Ragu is one of them. ‘When in doubt, order the ragu’ is a motto I live by. Buzo’s pappardelle with duck leg ragu, chilli, garlic, and parsley is rich and seductive. But trumping the duck pappardelle in terms of richness is the vincisgrassi. For those in the dark, vincisgrassi is a regional variety of lasagne. At Buzo, it’s layered with porcini, mushroom, prosciutto, truffle, and parmigiano. I’m all for the earthy intensity this lasagne brings to the table.
The menu at Lumi changes quite frequently, but the pasta is brilliant without fail. The spelt tortellini, plump up with pumpkin and burnt butter, and crowned with uni still resonates as a special pasta memory from 2014. Note that Lumi purely offers set menus, but all of them include at least one pasta dish. Check the menu online to see what the pasta du jour is. More ramblings about Lumi here.
Price range: $55 for 3-course lunch , $75 for 5-course lunch , $105 for 8-course dinner or Sunday lunch
You won’t get al dente, Italian-style pasta at Redfern Continental, but HOLY SMOKES, the spaghetti with meatballs is in-your-face good. The tomato sauce is so full of flavor, I want to bathe in it forever. There’s something über comforting and simple about meatballs on a heaving mound of spaghetti. Generous serving, too.
Every day the pasta at Sagra is freshly made, and every day the menu sees seasonal changes. With an ethos directed at simplicity and quality, the fresh pasta and ingredients speak for themselves. The pappardelle with beef ragu is a winner, but I’ll definitely be returning for some of the other pastas.
Price range: $19-23 per pasta dish
Pastizzi Cafe, Newtown
While most people would probably head to Pastizzi Cafe for the stellar pastizzis, it’s also worth ordering the simple, affordable pastas. The ravioli is handmade in-house with five different options for fillings, and five sauces to choose from. On my last visit I went with the spinach and ricotta ravioli with a napolitana sauce. Simplicity at its finest.
Not everyone will go for a Thai spin on pasta, but I’m all about keeping an open mind. Boon’s pasta is in a whole other playing field compared to places like Lumi and ACME where Asian influences often play a part. Boon is a cafe by day and an isaan restaurant by night, so in a way it’s the reverse of most other pastas in Sydney. Here the pasta is a vessel to manipulate with Thai characters and ingredients. The sai ouah kamut pasta of spicy herb pork sausage and egg yolk has all the robust, herbacious flavors of a Thai stir fry. I’m also a fan of the kamut fusilli, which instead of regular egg pasta, has a hint of nuttiness and a bitey texture.
So I know that Pinbone has closed, but it’s still popping up here and there for brunch ops. And the fregola with creamed corn and poached egg is still my top pick for the best brunch dish in Sydney. Creamy. Corny. Good. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll reopen a permanent brunch spot somewhere soon.
My pasta wishlist:
Fratelli Paradiso ✓
Chiosco by Ormeggio
Mantecato Risotteria ✓
Ahgora’s haloumi ravioli
Iceberg’s spaghetti nero
Russo & Russo’s fregola with eel ✓
Da Mario ✓
Milano Torino ✓
Any other ones that I’m missing and should check out?