“Sagra” in Italy is a small festival or town fair and it always involves food. A relaxed fun family event that everyone in town attends………..this is pretty much what Sagra Restaurant , East Sydney is about. It’s a small celebration of the best in the market. A celebration of nose to tail and seasons finest. It’s restrained and local, fresh and whole and served with homely enthusiasm.
Housed in a small terrace, its rough hewn tables and coloured metal chairs are not attention grabbing. The emphasis is on the food. Chef owner Nigel Ward has opened his labour of love. Most of the renovations were done by Ward himself. The aim is to be everyone’s favourite local, and a lucky local client it is too. Farm to plate , organic and biodynamic and homemade where ever possible. Nigel and his team certainly have a long food pedigree between them and though the list of Australian and international restaurants will impress things here are purposefully pared back. This is a place where the whole animal comes in and is butchered, where they make as much of the menu as is practical and where the menu just might change daily if there is something seasonal about. Waste is not a word that should be bandied about here.
So with bread and pasta and anything else they are able to manage being made here, the art of the simple enjoyment of food means classic Italian crafted food without the unnecessary bells and whistles. If you are very lucky you will be greeted by the affable Alessandro, the floor manager, himself a bit of an heirloom. Born in Italy and transplanted to Australia, he has an Italian homely charm as well as is an extensive knowledge of Italian Food and Wine. Warning, he has a very dry sense of humour. Let him guide you through their very interesting but concise and also ever changing, wine selection and tell you a few tales about the food and often its origins. I took my friend from New Zealand on a Friday lunch and she was charmed by the rustic appeal of the small restaurant and we left ourselves in Alexandros hands . We started with a Blood Orange Aperol.
…..let me make you a nice refreshing drink…do you trust me?
He returned with two orange icy beauties that were squeezed fresh blood orange juice and Aperol. A great start. As we sipped on our drinks we ate house made bread ($4 for 4 slices) with olive oil and a delicious mix of olives. Then he ran us through the menu with plenty of side stories to keep us amused. We settled on sharing an entrée and two pastas, leaving room for dessert.
The Zucchini Fritti were sweet tender young zucchini probably once attached to zucchini flowers. Here they were dipped in the same batter and fried and served with the soft delicious rinds of gorgonznola and with a drizzle of truffled honey ($17). I loved the use of recycled menus under the fried zucchini.
The pastas were simple and delicious each hand-made. A ricotta ravioli with peas and mint ($19) and a Papardelle with a dark meat chicken ragout. Alessandro explains that this ragout is made from Rooster, a sometimes wasted bird, due to the fact only one is required (or not) in a chicken coop ($20). He suggested a Fillipi Soave Castelcerino 2011 by the glass. I love a Soave, it’s fresh and perfect with pasta. This one is 100% indigenous Garganega grape, grown organic and made with natural yeasts.
The other main courses on the day we were there were Chargrilled Salmon, heirloom Beets and Horseradish ( $30), and Spatchcock, Kipflers and Porcini alforno ( $29)
Alessandro explained that the Strawberry ricotta Tart would arrive with a decidedly burnt top. This had become tradition around Lazio from the time that people used to cook communally in ovens in small villages. I have to say it wasn’t my favourite dessert . I would prefer the unburnt version and by far the best thing about the dessert was the glass of Marco De Bartoli “Bukkuram” Passito di Pantelleria 100% Zibbibo a grape varietal that is one of the oldest in the world. It’s produced on Pantelleria Island, an Italian territory, 100 km (62 miles) southwest of Sicily and just 60 km (37 miles) east of the Tunisian coast (Pantelleria- is also famous for capers).
Great for a quick lunch or dinner , a bunch of friends meeting up or a longer more relaxed dinner.
Marco De Bartoli “Bukkuram” Passito di Pantelleria 100% Zibbibo
Sagra Restaurant, East Sydney details
Telephone 02 8307 0430