The one restaurant my father brings up on a regular basis is a trattoria we went to while vacationing in Rome. Not one for planned meals—his interests, then and now, lay in seeing rather than eating, such that food was a spontaneous excursion in between the sights—he had been wary of a place that I had looked up in a guidebook and reserved in advance. But I insisted, and we arrived to a yellow-lit, family-run outfit serving simple fare, rabbit and ravioli brought to our table with a jovial smile. He was smitten, instantaneously.
That was five years ago, when I was still a sophomore in college. The Italian meals I have had since have been astoundingly rare. Maybe it’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Italy three times in my life and the thought of “Italian food” seems fated to disappoint. Or maybe it’s because it is harder to find in Asia a place like that trattoria: rustic and intimate, with hearty laughter spilling from the tables and a modest bill at the end of the meal.
After a marathon flight to Sydney, when all I wanted was a hot shower and a full stomach, I had dinner at Fratelli Paradiso. This was not Rome, as the drawl of Australian English reminded me. Absent were the cobblestones and the architecture and the Vespas, replaced by a strong Sydney sun and endless amounts of harbor.
But the waitstaff spoke to each other in Italian. They were young and attractive, constantly spinning through the restaurant. I had lasagne; I had tiramisu—perhaps the most maligned of Italian dishes, but rich and comforting when done well. I had wine, which I had been careful not to drink too much of in front of my father five years ago, lest he jump to the conclusion that I was spending all my university days swimming in booze. And the diners around me chatted warmly as evening enveloped the tables in violet.
This was not Rome—far from it, geographically, culturally—but I’m sure my father would love it, as he did back then.
Potts Point is not in want of trendy restaurants, but Fratelli Paradiso—cozier and more laid-back than many of its neighbors—has remained a neighborhood stalwart since 2001. Classic dishes, like lasagnetta Bolognese and a Marsala-soaked tiramisu, are straightforward but impeccably executed. Breakfast-to-dinner service ensure that the place is constantly occupied by locals, who in pleasant weather often choose to sit at one of the tables by the sidewalk.
12-16 Challis Ave, Potts Point
Mon-Sat: 07:00-23:00; Sun: 07:00-24:00
02 9357 1744
Around 35 AUD per person