Meet The Locals

Classic Italian cuisine with a contemporary twist

Appetisers at Capriccio Osteria. Photo: Gabriella Szymanowska

BY STATON WHALEY

Diners at Capriccio Osteria can enjoy Italian dishes inspired by traditional Italian cuisine spiced up with whatever Australian freshness is at hand. Located on Norton Street in Leichhardt, the white and yellow decor matches the lemon peel artwork adorning the window. Outdoor dining is ideal on a sunny day in the cozy suburb, but inside the chefs can be seen crafting the very dishes that will soon arrive. You can also see pasta being hand stretched in the back.
The owner, Michele Rispoli, hails from Positano, Italy, a small cliff-side beach town on the coast of southern Italy. Rispoli helped his family build and then run their small beach cafe every summer during busy season. Rispoli has worked in kitchens across Europe, gaining culinary experience knowledge. In 2015 he started the arduous process of creating his restaurant along with his head chef, Nicole Bampton, who has worked at a number of Sydney’s leading restaurants including Tetsuya. Nicole and Michel perfected the menu with months of soft openings. At the end of 2015, Capriccio Osteria officially opened as the newest and most unique restaurant in Leichardt’s renowned Italian dining district, and with good reason.
The menu encompasses a wide range of sharing dishes, from oysters on the half shell with lemon, lime, and vodka granita ($4 each) to Wagyu beef carpaccio with onion, pecorino cheese, rocket, and walnut agrodolce ($26). Rispoli suggested Italian staples that are simple yet masterfully crafted. The mixed Italian olives marinated in citrus and herb ($8) packed the perfect clash of sweet, tangy, and salty falvours. 18-month old Prosciutto di Parma ($13) paired with wood fired house-made rosemary and sea salt focaccia ($5) and creamy stracciatella which means “stretched” in Italian is served with roasted black figs and balsamic ($15) all of which came together beautifully. The warm seasoned bread was a simple palate on which one could enjoy the tender prosciutto and the creamy cheese, as it is worked past being burrata, but not rolled quite into mozzarella.
With the oversight of a talented chef the wood fired oven produces a perfectly balanced and tender dish, Rispoli explains that the technique is difficult but extremely rewarding. Options include Ox tongue roasted with almond romesco and crispy capers ($16) and wood fired swordfish with Jerusalem artichokes, red peppers and bagna cauda ($38).
Last but certainly not least is a selection of pastas, all made by hand, which, according to Rispoli makes all the difference. Rispoli brought out the squid ink spaghetti with blue swimmer crab, chili, and basil ($29), and fettuccine with guanciale, black pepper, and tuscan pecorino cheese ($27). Rispoli described the creation of the dish as an intricate one, with the squid ink being infused into the pasta while it is being made. The tomato and basil are fresh local ingredients. The chili adds a kick to the buttery crab and vegetables. This dish is a must eat. The fettuccine is presented in a creamy white sauce and is a hearty, filling dish.
A full bar menu with crafted cocktails are available. Rispoli says he used to serve almost strictly Italian with beer and wine choices, with grapes many had never heard of before, but now he is more open to mixing in Australian and New Zealand wines as well.
Capriccio Osteria brings old fashioned Italian cuisine to a modern location. Rispoli crafts each meal with fresh locally grown ingredients that make the Italian cuisine a unique find in the neighborhood. Rispoli said he would rather use something not quite typical in his dishes than import something all the way from Italy if it won’t keep as well. While Rispoli’s heart has never left the small beach town in Italy, from which he draws inspiration, he does not tie himself to a limited culinary mindset. Capriccio Osteria serves up all the Italian classics but presents them with a local, modern twist.

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