Westfield Sydney, Level 5, Shop 506
188 Pitt St
Sydney NSW, 2000
When I lived in Melbourne, I loved having after-work pasta dates at Grossi Cellar Bar. The casual yet cosy (not to mention convenient!) location, the simple but refined menu, and the comfortable prices made it just about the most ideal location for a mid-week date. Unfortunately, the Sydney pasta scene has so far failed to thrill me, and two years later, I’m still trying to find that place for a quick bowl of good pasta.
When I first came across Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar, I was actually pretty reticent to try it. Being a food court restaurant, I wasn’t convinced at how authentic the experience would be, regardless of how much Italian they include on the menu. What finally sold me however was the fact that Ippudo is also located in Westfield, and that’s the place to head if you want one of the best bowls of ramen in town. And if Ippudo can do amazing noodles from inside a shopping centre, why can’t Ragu?
Although marketed as a stand-alone restaurant and wine bar, Ragu isn’t really much more than a corner of the food court with some dedicated seating and table service. Yet despite that, I found myself pleasantly surprised once I had a chance to look around. Not only was the décor clearly well thought out, the staff were also professional and capable, tactfully sorting out an issue we had with seating without us even having to mention a thing. Consider me impressed.
The Zuppa Di Cozze ($16) were surprisingly luscious. Each mussel was huge, sweet, and plump, soaked in a rich broth of summer tomatoes and white wine. The flavours were punchy yet balanced, and the broth good enough to drink with a spoon, once I had finished with the toasted sourdough.
I will always order the Spaghetti Carbonara ($16) whenever I see it on the menu, with the hope of it being the decadent Italian variety made with nothing but cheese and eggs, rather than the cream-laden atrocity that normally comes out. And while I’ve been disappointed many times, this one was a bullseye. Each strand of pasta was coated in an obscenely rich and smoky sauce, topped with fatty pieces of salted pancetta, and a twist of freshly cracked black pepper. It’s the best carbonara I’ve had in Sydney to date, and probably even the best since my very first ‘real’ carbonara.
The Gnocchi Nonna Marisa ($16) was another simple pasta, but like the carbonara, it was wonderfully executed. The tomato passata burst with the bright richness of summer tomatoes, and each piece of gnocchi had a meltingly fluffy texture. Top it with a grating of sharp parmesan to bring out the fragrance of the single basil leaf, and it’s basically a model for understated elegance.
I came into Ragu holding onto a bit of optimism, but ultimately, I think I just expected to be disappointed. As it turns out, the only disappointment I had was with myself, and how wrong I was. Despite the uninspired setting, Ragu Pasta and Wine Bar has, shall we say, done an Ippudo. They clearly knew exactly what they were doing with the food, serving up some of the best home-styled pasta I’ve had for a long while, and it’s all wrapped up with service worthy of a stand-alone restaurant. If you’re looking for Italian food that’s both good quality and affordable – which as it turns out is possible in Sydney after all – you know where to go.
Rating: 14/20 – cream of the carbonara crop.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.