Sydney harbours a plethora of amazing experiences.
Some are well-known, others are truly hidden away and known only by the initiated, and there are those in plain sight yet missed by most.
La Rosa, billed as a wine bar and osteria, in Sydney’s historic Strand Arcade is the hidden little sister of Pendolino, the restaurant. Both eateries are located on the second floor of the stunning late 19th century building, about a hundred metres apart on opposite sides of the building.
Some scoff at the more casual offering by chef and owner Nino Zocalli, but La Rosa stands on its own. While Pendolino is perfect for a traditional big Italian dinner, La Rosa offers a lighter alternative which also includes delicious pizzas, and truly satisfies.
While Pendolino demands respect and time, La Rosa can be deliciously and frivolously fast, and with the State Theatre just around the corner, it’s the perfect spot for a quick yet delightful pre-show meal, or a supper afterwards.
Among the Tasting Plates to Start there are some true treasures, such as the house cured mixed salami plate, and the black olive purée off the Misto di Olive is one of the best one I have ever tasted.
When it comes to the entrées, one of the biggest surprises to me is the salad. Frankly, I am not a fan of salads, I am more a pasta and meats kind of guy. However, this salad is simply spectacular. The delicious combination of zucchini flowers, artichoke hearts, gorgonzola, and roasted hazelnuts, tossed with a delightful dressing and topped with delicious quail eggs, is all the salad I will ever need, or eat.
The Pork Polpettine of course is more my speed from a meat perspective, and it consists of fluffy clouds of porky goodness serviced with semolina that actually tastes good, and crispy pancetta.
The pastas are also worthy of serious consideration. They serve the Roman classic Cacio e Pepe, one of my favourite pasta dishes in the world, and their lasagne made with pork and veal is a taste sensation!
My favourite main dish is the Moscardini, or ‘Drunken’ Octopus – tender octopus stewed in rich tomato sauce. This seemingly simple dish has depths of flavour that cannot be described, only tasted.
And the menu doesn’t end there: grilled beef and veal dishes, a seafood grill plate, a delicious variety of Roman-style pizzas, and fabulous side dishes round out their offerings.
My favourite pizzas are the Calabrese made using a spicy nduja (salami) and mozzarella, among other things, and the Pancetta del Rinascimento e Fontina – there is something about a good white pizza that can never be put into words. And despite my love of meat dishes, their roasted cauliflower pizza with mozzarella and truffled pecorino is admittedly a stand out.
From the side dishes, I recommend their Cetrilio e Schiacciate salad with black grains and refreshing cucumber (perfect with a pizza), and the duck fat chips …
To finish off there is a wonderful range of desserts on offer, and my partner insists they make the best Tiramisu … ever.
And it’s not just the food – the atmosphere is inviting, with rich reds and candles creating a romantic and peaceful environment right in the heart of Sydney’s busiest shopping mall, and the service is professional yet personal, prompt yet unintrusive.
The night we dined at La Rosa, romantic tables mixed surprisingly well with families and larger groups, with everyone having a visibly enjoyable experience.
The Strand Arcade
133-193 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW, 2000
Monday to Saturday: 12pm till late (closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9223 1674
Online bookings: La Rosa