A slice of Sardinia has opened at Ettalong and just like the Mediterranean island its named after, the restaurant is all about seafood by the sea.
Formerly known as Trattoria by Vito after owner and chef Vito Sechi, the Italian restaurant at Ettalong Markets has a new name – Sardinia – and a new approach to seafood, inspired by Vito’s island home off the coast of Italy.
You’ll find Sardinia located at Ettalong Markets, just before the cinema on Ocean View Rd.
By day, it’s a casual eatery offering seafood to go and by night, the white tablecloths are smoothed out, and the restaurant transforms into a trattoria serving up Italian-inspired seafood.
While Chef Vito has been providing Italian fare to the Ettalong community since February, he soon discovered that what locals wanted was a more casual daytime approach so introduced his take on a Sardinian seafood takeaway for lunch.
The Sardinia lunch boxes, which include everything from crab cakes to calamari, have been designed to take away and enjoy by the sea just a short stroll from the restaurant.
There are also smaller, reasonably priced snacks for less than $10, including semolina lemon and pepper baby squid and polenta dusted shark bites, which can be eaten on-the-go while perusing the eclectic mix of stores at the retro market complex.
Vito has even combined chips and pasta in his signature rigatoni pasta chips dish designed especially for hungry kids.
In the evening, all the doors are opened, the tables and chairs are moved outside and the Italiano playlist is turned up as Sardinia transforms into a Mediterranean trattoria.
A sun-drenched deck offers a platform for al fresco dining and people watching, a light-filled front room is the perfect setting for some fine dining, and inside it becomes a bit more authentic with shell motif table tops, nautical touches and piles of cookbooks from the likes of Italian culinary godfathers Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo.
The dinner menu includes Sardinian classics with a modern Australian twist such as pan seared sardines with orange and kale, and octopus with potatoes.
For Vito, it’s all about using fresh ingredients and letting them shine.
“I’m not into trends, I prefer to find the balance between three or four ingredients and create an equilibrium based on simplicity,” he explains.
Vito is passionate about serving sustainable seafood so the fish in the fish and chips is most likely to be local flat head, whiting or black fish.
It’s also what this Woy Woy dad serves to his three children as he tries to instil in them a respect for the land and the environment while opening their eyes to the concept of only eating what’s in season and what’s plentiful.
“What you get is what you’re meant to eat. It’s fundamental that our kids understand this,” he says.
While Vito tries to source as much seafood as he can locally, he occasionally travels to Sydney’s Little Italy – Five Dock – for a few special Italian ingredients.
The riccie granchio, a curly pasta served with spanner crab and a dash of cream and tomato, has some secret ingredients from Puglia in southern Italy, as does the misto di mare – a heavenly bowl of mixed seafood in a bisque best enjoyed with lots of bread dipping.
If the food in this quirky Italian restaurant hasn’t sold you on Sardinia, the infectious toe-tapping tunes, images of endless azure seas, bobbing boats and classic Italian Coast, and the warm hospitality of Vito and his wait staff, is sure to seal the deal.
In lieu of the real deal, there’s always Sardinia at Ettalong for a taste of the Mediterranean right here on the Coast.
Coastal Chic Tip: Combine a meal at Sardinia with an aperitif at Bar Toto and a trip to the retro cinema for a fabulous night out in Ettalong