“There is a seductive Italian in town” M tells me.
“Well, I know you’re absolutely in love with Monica Bellucci but there’s only two things about Italy that generally excite me and that’s food and opera, although I like to gaze at beautiful Italian women … occasionally” I reply.
“In that case, I think you will like Popolo ‘coz it has one of the three” M says.
“What, beautiful Italian women?” I ask.
“Maybe, but there’s good food there” M replies.
‘Popolo’ or people in Italian and there are quite a few of these in Popolo tonight.
Joint owners Flavio Carnevale and Fabio Dore are determined to offer Italian food lovers something different – regional Italian predicated around the Tyrrhenian Sea where fresh seafood, simple pastas and pizza are the hallmarks of a rich food history. More specifically, Carnevale’s hometown of Rapone and Dore’s Ossi on the island of Sardinia means diners are feted with southern Italian cuisine.
As there is just two of us, M and I are seated at the horse-shoe shaped bar. A good proposition if you are interested in watching bartenders concocting a range of cocktails while checking out the menu.
I am not a big fan of Grappa although there is a good selection right in front of us. But drinks aside, I think the dark and moody ambience is seductive if you are on a date.
The one-page menu menu indicates serious intent to me – one which focuses on a few good regional dishes done really well.
The wood-fired pizza oven and busy kitchen are just silhouettes behind a wall of bottles.
There are seven different types of pizza on the menu and Luciano comes with tomato fior di latte, salami and olives.
Not the thinnest of crusts but certainly among the tastiest of pizzas. The fior di latte is still bubbling away as the pizza arrives.
Just the right amount of sauce for it to be slightly drippy as we tuck in with our hands – to me, a more civilized way of eating pizza than using a fork and knife.
A Fregola or toasted pebble-shaped pasta has taken in beautiful stock flavours.
Blue swimmer meat would have been a little more delicate than spanner king crab meat but I would have been happy with just either one because this dish is simple yet flavours are well balanced with the sweetness of cherry tomatoes.
I have not dined sitting at a bar for a while. But sitting on these stylish Thonet stools with an elevated view of other diners enjoying their food and bartenders mixing martinis and cocktails with Italian aperitivo is somewhat seductive.
And dining with a male companion tonight reminds me fondly of my bachelorhood, those fun-filled days where a hot date night failing which a brother date night are equally awesome.
The pizza and fregola are impressive but the star of the evening is a pappardelle with lamb and broad bean ragu.
Thick ribbons of pappardelle is al dente and its freshness unmistakable and absolutely divine. Don’t expect a heavy sauce to the lamb ragu because there isn’t much. What there is in small doses is tender shreads of slow-cooked lamb, olive oil and freshly grated parmesan. This might be a good winter dish but its lightness is refreshing on a cool spring evening.
The wine list might as well be a list of southern Italian wines of Sardinia, Puglia, Campania and Basilicata.
And why shouldn’t it be since Popolo is a place where you can break the ice on a hot date with cool, wholesome southern Italian food.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite dish from regional Italy?
Popolo was recently awarded one hat at the 2014 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards.
50 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay
New Wouth Wales
Tel: +61 2 9361 6641
Opening hours:Tuesday – Sunday Lunch from 12pm & Dinner from 6pm Saturday – Sunday Breakfast from 8am