Matthew Swieboda has made more than a little impact on the Sydney drinking scene, with his iconic Love Tilly Devine refashioning what Sydney-siders drank and how they drank it. That swing from the formal to the personal, from the conventional to the artisanal, was given further flight with his collaboration with Nathaniel Hatwell at Dear Sainte Éloise, with the pair now embracing the national obsession with pasta, opening Ragazzi in 2019.
Swieboda and Hatwell are joined at Regazzi, in Sydney’s CBD, by operational partners Scott McComas-Williams, Head Chef, and Felix Colman, Restaurant Manager, though you’re just as likely to see Swieboda and Hatwell on the tools, too, pairing an ever-changing menu dominated by handmade pasta with some of the best lo-fi bottlings around.
As you enter from Angel Place, you’re under no illusions about Ragazzi’s mission, with twin lightboxes running the length of the glass double doors. In retro sans serif, the words “wine” and “pasta” are stacked vertically on each, with neither claiming dominance. Once inside, the room has a modern trattoria-wine-bar vibe, with the bar claiming as much presence as the brass-edged tables lined against chocolate-leather banquettes, Thonet bentwoods opposing; wine, amaro and grappa bottles add detail.
Curating a list of over 270 bins, Swieboda has equipped this cosy 40-seater with a formidable level of choice, including around 20 by the glass, with a premium pour or two typically available. The list leans into Italy heavily, with about 60 per cent devoted to wines across the 20 regions. Swieboda pairs the avant-garde with the traditional – from makers that made ‘natural wine’ generations before the term was coined. Good farming and gentle traditional making are key. The rest of the list is soaked up mainly be local offerings, with a sliver devoted to other international favourites.
McComas-Williams’s menu is easier to pin down for its structure than its contents, with items often changing daily, though regulars would be more than a little familiar with Olasagasti anchovies on sourdough, an essential version of cacio e pepe, and handmade cavatelli with pork and fennel sausage and pipis. Whatever the offerings, expect a handful of starters, a good half dozen pasta dishes, a couple of bigger proteins, some contorni, formaggio and a dolce or two.
COVID-19 conditions: During the national lockdown, Ragazzi pivoted to a delivery DIY pasta packs with matching wine, showcasing a region or style, but have reverted to normal trading now, though with reduced capacity. Those pasta packs may form a spinoff venture son, so stay tuned.