Directory

CAFFE MORETTI

Cuisine: Italian

Set back from Norton Street, this place is easy to miss but you’d better not: miss it, that is. One of the few — fewer and fewer every year — good Italians on this strip, Moretti is a friendly family place with good service, good food and good value. There’s a long list of pasta options (housemade); maybe try gnocchi bolognese to kick off. After this, there’s a choice between fish and meat dishes and the house specialty, Roman-style pizza with a crisp, thin crust $12.50–$24.50. There are seasonal varieties such as San Pietro with bocconcini, zucchini flowers and anchovies $20 and perennials such as the exquisitely simple bianco, garlic, rosemary and extra-virgin olive oil $12.50. Service is friendly and fast with water and wine glasses hitting the table as you sit. A great find.

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LITTLE SICILY

Cuisine: Italian,Italian

An Italian place in Leichhardt — what are the odds? Pretty good, actually, and so is the food at this delightful family-run eatery. Boisterous chef Ciccio (formerly of La Rustica fame) has let son Adriano take the reins in the kitchen, serving up traditional Sicilian dishes and greeting customers with his legendary ebullience. The decor is simple but the atmosphere is family-friendly, fun and, at the weekend, a bit raucous. Authentic pasta options abound — try housemade gnocchi with slow-braised pork belly $19.50 — and the range of regular and gourmet pizzas is almost overwhelming. If in doubt, the simple Palermo pizza with prosciutto, bocconcini, rocket and shaved parmesan $14–$29 is a good bet. Mains start around the $22 mark. If suckling pig $37.80 is on the specials menu, order it and thank us later. 

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NOSTOS

Cuisine: Italian,Italian,Greek

This pleasant and reasonably priced Greek restaurant holds back on the corn with minimalist decor and not a Parthenon poster in sight but it still manages to exude Greek warmth and, yes, the food is good. A delightful starter is chicken livers simply sauteed with green olives, sage, lemon and garlic $15.50 or, if liver isn’t your thing, fried eggplant slices with garlic dip $13.50. One of the things we love about Greek restaurants is you can read the menu in the dark: moussaka $23, yes, souvlaki $24, yes, prawns saganaki $27, yes. But there are a few surprises and they’re all pleasant. Try the set menu $45 if you don’t want to think. There’s a courtyard for warm evenings and live Greek music to enjoy or avoid on Friday and Saturday nights.

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OSVALDO POLLETTI

Cuisine: Italian,Italian,Greek,Italian

We love this friendly Italian — indeed probably the most Italian of Leichhardt’s restaurants right now — with its small, constantly changing menu, charming blown-up old family photo on the otherwise bare walls and short but well-chosen wine list offering a handful of regional specialties. Because of that changing menu, there’s not much point in telling you what we had because what you have will be different, but there will be pasta options, which could be a tagliatelle with mussels, garlic and chilli $18/$24, or if you’re there in winter there could be a main of braised lamb shoulder with peas and onions $30. The plain descriptions belie the world of flavour that is the food here. Don’t come for the grand gesture, and there’s not much choice for dessert, but do make a choice from the aperitivi or try affogato al bicerin $15.

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PORTOFINO

Cuisine: Italian,Italian,Greek,Italian,Modern Italian

A local stayer and another of our Leichhardt favourites, Portofino has been here under various owners since the ’70s and has maintained a consistent standard. We know people who crave their pasta la ragu $17.90 at least once a week. That’s some ragu; the same, we suspect, as in their lasagne di casa $19.90 and a cut above. A starter of funghi ripieni, roasted field mushrooms with goat’s cheese, rosemary, garlic and breadcrumbs $14.90 is another menu fixture. There are 19 pizza varieties $15.90–$25.50 and always a good selection of simple seafood dishes such as polpi Portofino, grilled octopus marinated in garlic and chilli, tossed in pesto, red capsicum and pinenuts $24.90. Service is relaxed and friendly but weekends can still be hectic and noisy. Not a bad thing after 30 years, and further proof you can still find good Italian in Leichhardt.

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ZENOBIA

Cuisine: Italian,Italian,Greek,Italian,Modern Italian,Lebanese

This very beautiful restaurant opened in the heart of once totally Italian Leichhardt and is named after a very gutsy third-century Syrian queen who led a revolt against the Roman Empire. Go figure, as they say in the classics. But speaking of Syrian princesses, one of the features of Zenobia is the bellydancers on Friday and Saturday nights. Are they Syrian? You’ll have to ask. Now to the food. Popular mains include chicken mansaf, shredded chicken and pinenuts on rice $22, and soujok, spicy sausages cooked with chilli and garlic $15. Mixed banquets are a feast, including coffee and dessert, at $45 per head. There are plenty of vegetarian options and a vegetarian banquet, also $45 per head. Kids will enjoy the courtyard in summer.

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