You know that deliciously smokey and natural woodfire smell that screams high-school campfire nostalgia with damper bread drenched in maple syrup? That was the smell that greeted me upon entering Tony Sabia’s restaurant, Puntino.
They say (whoever they are) that Tony or ‘Mr Woodfire,’ brings the best of Southern Italy’s Basilicata region to Sydney and I wholeheartedly agree with “these people”. If I could describe Puntino’s food in one word, it would be fresh. Or there’s smokey or just plain classic Italian. Okay … it’s more than one word. Moreover, Puntino is also great value for money.
Fresh ingredients prepared simply to highlight their natural flavours is what Southern Italian cuisine is all about and it’s also what Tony does with a little extra flair. Simple, flavoursome food that had me hook, line and sinker from the get-go.
First up was a mozzarella platter consisting of Buffalo mozzarella with Victorian merlo salt and hot chili salt. The mozzarella was soft and smooth and the salts on top of it were delicious. The chili salt had just enough bite to it and the double smoked mozzarella was a revelation. I now have a new passion for anything smoked. The tasting platter also came with a caprese salad made with the sweetest of tomatoes. Also on the platter were rocket leaves in a sweet balsamic vinaigrette Italian prosciutto and mozzarella bread.
Then came the almighty sandwich. Most say the filling of any sandwich is the best part. However, the bread in Tony’s sandwich definitely won my heart and stomach. The soft, slightly gooey bread was beautifully fresh. Then on top of fantastic bread, the sweet relish, creamy mayonnaise and bitter rocket made for, according to my lunch date, a “bloody fantastic” sandwich.
Our final course was some homemade gnocchi, made by Tony’s grandmother. My poor stomach never stood a chance. Honest to God it was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had.
Plump al-dente dumplings delightfully melded with a rich, fresh garlic, tomato and basil sauce – it took all my strength not to leave in a comatose stupor.
41 Crown Street, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011, 02 9699 8787, www.puntino.com.au