4/330 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
This visit to Bar Totti’s has been a long time coming. Initially, my visit was planned for early last year, but ended up getting cancelled twice due to NSW’s 2-week-lockdown-that-turned-into-a-4-month-lockdown. Many, many moons later, after many vaccinations into many arms, I made a third go of booking Bar Totti’s, only to be foiled yet again by staffing issues due to pretty much everyone having Omicron. Apparently the new phrase is fourth time lucky, because after 8 months and four attempts, I am finally, finally about to get me some Totti’s.
Bar Totti’s initially started out as just Totti’s out in Bondi, but the original became so popular that after three years, they decided to open a CBD outpost. Except this time around, things will be a bit more casual, a bit more focused on the drinks and snacks, and perhaps most excitingly of all, open until 2am on the weekends!
After 2 years of not having been overseas, walking into Bar Totti’s almost made me tear up a little. With white-washed walls leading up to airy ceilings, a bustling atmosphere, and distinctly European touches, it felt almost exactly like being on holiday in the Mediterranean. The menu supports this coveted illusion, consisting largely of antipasti and fresh seafood cooked over flames, as well as a few classic Italian mains – all designed to be shared, along with a drink or three from the very European wine list.
The Wood-Fired Bread ($12) is the thing to get at Totti’s, and even if you go against the advice of the wait-staff, the golden blimps emerging from the woodfire oven will soon have you contrite. This is the centrepiece around which the substantial antipasti and snack menu revolves. It is one enormous, puffy pizza crust, gloriously charred in places and anointed with a healthy amount of olive oil and flaky sea salt. One reviewer cleverly described the experience as deconstructed pizza, but better. And I’m inclined to agree; not only do you get the deliciously fluffy, chewy crust that is arguably the best part of a wood-fire pizza, you also get your choice of toppings served at their absolute peak, untarnished by the heat of the oven.
With a menu this extensive, the term ‘must-order’ is not to be bandied about lightly, but it can definitely be said about the Burrata ($11). Splayed sensuously open with its creamy innards on show, this is dairy at its unadulterated best. To bring out the milkiness even more is a drizzle of contrastingly sharp olive oil, and a sprinkling of dried kombu, which adds a phenomenal salty, umami note to the mellow creaminess. Absolute genius.
And if you’re getting the burrata (and you are getting the burrata), the Tomato ($11.5) is also a must. Once again, this gloriously simple plate of cherry tomatoes is absolutely bursting with the sweetness of summer, its flavour simply but effectively accompanied by olive oil, sea salt, and a few sprigs of oregano that add a warm earthiness.
Going back to must-orders, a personal one for me is the Chicken Liver Parfait ($10). It’s been a while since I’ve had a parfait and this one was a great reintroduction. It was mellow and smooth, with a lovely fruitiness to balance out the richness. I especially liked the flurry of chives in lieu of the usual fruit paste; it added a peppery freshness that nonetheless was mild enough to avoid overwhelming the parfait.
In the spirit of trying something different, I chose the Mortadella ($10) instead of my usual prosciutto or salami. Mortadella is having something of a revival at the moment, and for me at least, I can put that down to how vividly this retro charcuterie reminds me of the deliciousness of eating whole slices of deli meats from the fridge as a child. But instead of being bland and overly-salted, the velvety slices have a mellow porky flavour, and just enough fat to make it a bit indulgent. It’s a great choice if you’re after something a little milder on the spectrum of cured meats.
Before moving onto the mains, I couldn’t resist trying out the King Prawn, Chilli, Fennel Pollen ($15ea). Charred viciously over a roaring wood fire, the outcome is nothing short of miraculous. The searing heat resulted in a crustacean that is still tender to the point of stickiness, whilst simultaneously infusing it with a rich, smoky aroma. Dressed simply with chilli and lemon, this is an absolutely marvellous bit of a seafood. And just further proof that Totti’s knows what’s up – they’ve already split the head for you, so make sure you get in there for all the best bits!
To wrap up our meal was a serve of Spinach Campanelle, Milk-Braised Pork, Chilli ($28.5), because what’s a visit to Totti’s if you don’t have some pasta?
Don’t let the virtuous greenness of the pasta fool you – this is pure rib-hugging comfort food. The slow-cooked ragu is rich to the point of stickiness, the flavour of the pork highlighted by a liberal hand with the rosemary. It is also indulgently creamy owing to the milk, and of course, the flurry of grated parmesan on top. Spiked with a generous dose of chilli oil, this almost feels like a cross between bolognese and mapo tofu, and is definitely one of the best pastas I’ve had in recent memory.
The portions at Bar Totti’s was so unexpectedly generous that I didn’t have an inch of room left over for their famous tiramisu or ice cream sandwich. The final bill was also surprisingly reasonable given the quality and amount of food we had, not to mention the prime CBD location. Combine that with the enthusiastically friendly staff, and I’m already plotting a return visit before I’ve even made it out the door.
Rating: 15.5/20 – when the food is straight up bussin’
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.