Pizza, a true expert once told me, is twenty percent worse by the time it gets to your home. I try my best to honour food by eating restaurant food in restaurants wherever possible. So while I did cheat and try out ReccoLab’s pizzas before dining at the restaurant, I don’t review home delivery. Needless to say though, they were good enough takeaway for me to wonder what they’d be like in-house.
Cue me: taking a trip to this buzzing glass box in an upmarket part of Rozelle.
It’s a grander enterprise than I’d imagined, with two distinct dining spaces running alongside three separate kitchens. In the front café there’s a gleaming white brick wood fire pizza oven, and a busy white-clad pizzaiolo firing off pizzas. The second glass-fronted laboratory style-kitchen is where the Neapolitan pizzas (and their naturally proofed 48-hour dough) are created. The third kitchen, responsible for the rest of the menu, is in the bar and restaurant section of the long space. It’s a convivial atmospheric room with dark wood detailing adding something organic to the modern, minimalist space.
The hard working bartenders turn out cocktails of a very high calibre. Ananas Mezcalito ($17) is a beautifully balanced cocktail based on a super smoky mescal. It rolls around your mouth with an integrated mix of fresh pineapple, Cointreau, lime juice and homemade habanero syrup. If you prefer an aperitivo – an appetite stimulating pre-dinner cocktail – hit up Sbagliato Al Basilico ($15). Garnished with a basil leaf cupping a trio of pine nuts, it’s Campari, Cinzano Bianco and Tio Pepe sherry that has been shaken with lemon juice, homemade basil syrup and aquafaba emulsifier (which mimics the properties of egg white).
There is also the 2015 St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer ($69), a lovely easy-drinking wine with floral notes, white stone fruit and some underlying spice. It goes down well with the chalkboard special – Sarde Beccafico ($18). Presented on brown paper, three baked sardines have their oiliness tamed with pine nuts, currants and breadcrumbs. This dish unlocks the wine’s sweetness and varietal characteristics.
The food here is not Italian-inspired, or Italian-influenced, it’s real Italian regional dishes from specific places. The owner, Antonio Zambarelli (who is also a DJ), is Genovese. The name pays homage to the costal town of Recco, which is famous for focaccia con formaggio, so obviously you should try some! It’s basically two layers of very thin focaccia dough filled with melted Italian stracchino cheese. We tried it Molto Buona ($29) which is topped with thinly sliced (they have a Berkel) prosciutto di San Daniele and Italian truffles. It eats somewhere between a pastry and a pizza, and is great for sharing as an entrée.
Battuta ($21), a hand-cut beef rump dish that’s Italy’s answer to French tartare, sits on creamy burrata with hazelnuts and anchovies. It’s one of the gentler and more easily charming raw beef dishes you can eat.
The busy floor team are fresh off the plane with thick accents and wonderful rolling r’s. We got genuine warmth, connection and enthusiasm across three different staff members, despite every table being full. Good service is also found in the details, like heated share plates, landing right before our Spaghettone Verace ($28). This spaghetti dish dotted with pipis, parsley, garlic, white wine and chilli was perfectly al dente. The shellfish were in a few seconds too long, but the briny juices were excellent.
The only dish I wouldn’t order again was the Cauliflower ($13) side of flash-fried cauliflower with gremolata and good ricotta salata. It was too raw in places, too cooked in others, though improved by their excellent orange, fruity house-made chilli oil.
Clearly though I forgot to try the pizza I actually came here to eat - so I'm going to need to revisit. I'm tempted to try a Tuesday night when it's Giro Pizza (all you-can-eat) for an astonishing $20 per head.