Walking through the sandstone archway down the well-worn stone steps and mosaic tiled floor of Fratelli Fresh in Bridge Street, there’s something I love about going underground to eat. Café Sopra next to the gourmet grocer, an apperetivo bar and the Mozarella (and pizza) Bar up the back all sit in the underground expanse of the heritage 1901 Burns Phillip building.
I dined at the Mozarella Bar late one night with B2B (bride-to-be) just before Christmas… oh dear, that entry must have gotten lost in my Christmas food carnage?! Both lovers of all things cheese, we sat at the bar (I’m a big fan of eating at the bar), torn over just what type of cheesy stuff we were in the mood for – creamy or smoked buffalo mozzarella or bresola – we go with the Mozzarella, grilled eggplant, roasted chilli & mint ($15) a salad of Shaved fennel, radish, celery and reggiano salad ($15) and a couple of pizzas; Caramelised leek, mascarpone, speck ($18); Chicory, tomato & smoked pancetta ($18) – yummy thin and crispy pizzas. I think B2B’s H2B (husband-to-be) even scored some of our pizza to takeaway, we couldn’t get through it all.
The kitchen and pizza bar stretch along one of the walls of Café Sopra. I like the atmosphere at the Mozarella Bar, the high marble tables next to all the fresh fruit and veg stores and low hung lights, but tonight we’re a group of seven dining and manage to score a spot in the Campari room of Café Sopra. In some way or another the guests around the table are all related, and I’m about to be a new link in the chain when Dr. Nick marries sis 1 in a few months.
Yoko (formally sis 2) and John are always effortless hippie chic, although tonight John is looking very Salvador Dali circa 1972 with the twirling of his moustache.
Yoko and I take charge of ordering food and the wine and prosecco have already been taken care of. To start, the Affetti misti with smoked mozzarella ($20); Mushroom salad with chats, asparagus & ricotta ($18); Shaved baby cabbage with reggiano & aged balsamic ($18); Ox heart tomatoes with bocconocini & basil ($18) and a couple of Zucchini flowers stuffed with five Italian cheese ($4.95 each) just for us.
I love anything with cheese, and although I’m not sure I could taste five of them in my zucchini flower, they were still delicious. Our Affetti misti comes with parma ham, ham, bresaola, spicy salami and smoked mozzarella. The mushroom salad is my new favourite. I’ve just met C for the first time (now that’s a girl with some great energy) and we dissect the mushroom salad so she can re-create it for her Australia Day BBQ.We have one GF (gluten free) amongst us with not a lot of menu options to accommodate when our waitress tells us there’s no cod plate, not no risotto and there might not be any trout… hmmm, it’s not looking good for GF. GF’s more interested in the wine and her beau to care about the food anyway, so I order her the Witlof salad with pear, walnuts, gorgonzola & pomegranate ($18) and Whole baked trout with mint & marjoram ($26).
For the rest of us Orrecchiette saliscce, crushed peas, mint and pecorino ($20); Potato gnocchi with pumpkin, pinenuts and parmesan ($20); Pizza with prosciutto, rocket, mozzarella and parmesan ($18) and Linguine with lemon, chilli and pangrattato ($18).The 0rrecchiette is delicious and al-dente. For someone who grew up HATING peas, they’re something I now love, especially smashed up with mint and with the spicy little sausage mince meatballs they come with tonight. No one seems to notice this plate stays very near me on the table for most of the meal
It’s the wine and the new beau that are distracting GF so much we have to remind her she can’t eat the pasta as it passes her and she goes to pile some on her plate.
“There’s so much garlic in this it feels like my mouth is burning… and I love it.” C says of the linguinie. She’s right. It’s carb on carb loading of the best kind – pasta and fried bread crumbs. Delicious.
The pear and witlof salad is a nice break from all the heavy strachy stuff we’re indulging in – crunchy, bitter and sweet.
GF and new beau are off to Rick Stein at Bannisters tomorrow – B2B was off their last time I was here for dinner… I take this as a sign, I have to get there myself.
Yoko snaps me plan photographing the food…
Fratelli Fresh, Cafe Sopra and Mozarella Bar – 11 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000 – 02 8298 2700