Strozzapretti is appropriately “priest choker” or “priest strangler” in Italian
because of its rope-like appearance.
Not long ago, Sydney’s Italian food scene was dominated by restaurants serving popular pastas and pizzas that were great but not differentiated by regional flavours.
Now there are Lombardian-inspired Ormeggio, Sardinian-inspired Pilu and the creativity continues with Japanese Italian-inspired Lumi and Korean Italian-inspired Acme.
Chopinand and I love Italian food and as the weather turns cooler, we crave for the comforting warmth of pasta and the earthiness of Italian cooking.
We decided to revisit Pilu at Freshwater after a long hiatus. We first checked out the renowned suckling pig when it first opened in 2004 and recalled any dish with bottarga was rather memorable.
Pilu sits in a heritage listed beach house on the edge of Freshwater Beach. Surrounded by garden, and fitted out in a relaxed coastal style, it has views across the beach.
Pilu at Freshwater, Freshwater
As we enter the room, we spot chef Giovanni Pilu‘s cookbook dedicated to Sardinian cuisine, something he has always championed right from the beginning when he first arrived in Sydney back in 1992.
On a cork tray, pecorino crisps laced with dollops of peanut cream, parmesan powder and chives kick off our 3-course dinner.
I choose a glass of Sella e Mosca “Terre Bianche” Alghero DOC torbato because it is from Sardinia.
“Lemme try” Chopinand says as he takes a sip from my glass.
” A bit hefty for twenty bucks considering it’s kinda sedate … I think it’s an everyday quaffer in the Italian kampungs.”
The Pilu menu is simply divided into degustation ($115 and $165 for 5 or 7 courses respectively) or traditional and innovative menus ( 3 courses for $90 on weekends).
The wine list on the other hand is a substantial narrative of Italian varietals and explanations of each from Vermentino, Torbato, Nebbiolo to Barolo and quite a few more.
One of the unique Sardinian ingredients is bottarga or dried mullet roe frequently shaved onto pasta and seafood dishes.
Tonight, our sourdough comes with a decadent knob of butter with this savoury wonder.
Polipo, olive nere, patate e prezzemolo
Chopinand‘s Fremantle octopus is a slow-cooked tentacle to first tenderize then charred on the grill for a smoky finish.
Resting on a disc of seared kipfler potato and sprinkled with diced black olives and crisp parsley leaves, this Pilu primi is an innovative Mediterranean that is rather tender with a subtle backing of tasty carb.
Strozzapreti, vongole, fiori di zucca e finocchietto selvatico
My strozzapretti entree with clams and zucchini flowers is made with chestnut flour hand-rolled into pasta tubes that resemble pigs intestine.
While I am enjoying the sweetness of this chestnut pasta coated with a briny clam sauce, I am not quite enamoured by the rather doughy texture.
Trota di fiume, crema d’aglio, bieta, rape e bottarga
Chopinand‘s rainbow trout is deboned, filleted then roasted and sprinkled with bottarga shavings for a crisp and salty crust. This fish is beautifully married with silky garlic cream, bitter Swiss chard and turnip dices.
It’s a rare occasion he’s enjoying a piece of fish at a restaurant rather than a chunk of bloody rare beef.
Pecora in cappotto
Sardinia’s mountainous ranges are famous for its lamb. When it arrives, my pecora in cappotto is a rectangular chunk of crackling fat and lean lamb belly with batons of baby carrots and potato purée in a pool of consommé.
The belly is succulent with a crispy bite on the rind while the potato purée resting on lightly pickled onion petals is elegant with hints of lemony myrtle.
Seadas ripiena di ricotta con miele di Corbezzolo
Chopinand‘s homemade Seadas ripiena is a fried ravioli filled with ricotta, sultanas, then drizzled with honey and topped with a crispy disc of dehydrated orange.
While this dessert is unique to Pilu’s, the pastry is doughy and the filling and honey both cloyingly sweet. Being a non-sweet fan, the disappointment is rather obvious on his face.
Noce di cocco, more, meringa di prugne e acetosella
Though not traditionally Italian, this coconut mousse offers a gentle end to the richness of my lamb belly.
Light and airy sweetness against jagged shards of sour plum meringue and sweet blueberries, this mousse is a revelation that is fresh as the breeze of Freshwater beach on a sunny day.
Pilu at Freshwater
Moore Street, Freshwater
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9938 3331
Opening times: Lunch Tuesday – Sunday from 12pm midday Dinner Tuesday – Saturday from 6pm.
I do love a visit to Pilu and as an Italian I’m definitely in favour of Italian chefs championing regional cuisine. The fish dish looks like the winner here.
I absolutely adored my meal at Pilu, we had their ‘Tour the regions’ special and it was fantastic. Such a gorgeous spot as well