Sella Vinoteca is one of Sydney’s finest Italian restaurants, matched with a brilliant wine list, but its charms are equally accessible for those wanting to pull up a stool for a snack and a glass or two. And you can take any of the bottles home, too.
The regular’s tip
The nuts & bolts
Fabio Dore and Marco Masotti drew on their Italian heritage when planning their Mediterranean-leaning wine bar and bottle shop in Randwick’s Newmarket dining precinct, which opened in January 2021.
For Dore, who oversees the 350-bottle list, wine has always been front of mind — he grew up on the island of Sardinia, where his family has vineyards and an olive farm. He describes his partnership with business partner and head chef Masotti, who grew up in Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy, as “like dancing together”.
Masotti’s menu skips through France, Spain and Italy to “hero local ingredients without changing them too much”. There is pasta, of course; little bonbons of caramelle (pasta that mimics the shape of wrapped candy) filled with salmon roe and crème fraiche, or pappardelle tossed with guanciale, broad beans and parmesan, for example. Small plates such as octopus-stuffed empanada and Turkish lamb kofta widen the net.
Dore and Masotti enlisted interior designer Tim Leveson (also behind the Sydney outpost of Employees Only) for the fit-out with a brief of “well-established wine bar in Italy”. There’s a central bar in soft blue tiles in the main dining room — complete with arched backbar — and a mosaic of marble pieces on the floor that are a nod to the terrazzo in Dore’s nonna’s house.
“You can come to our place for just a glass of wine and few small plates or stay all night tasting our wines and food,” Dore says. He always holds a few seats back for walk-ins, and there are no bookings for the outdoor area, so there’s generally always room for one more. If you like what you see, grab a bottle to take home from the adjoining bottle shop.
Dore’s drinks list is mostly organic and minimal intervention, which has less to do with current trends and more values inherited from his farming family. “In Sardina, it’s very important to respect the land where our wines and food come from,” he says.
You’ll find the DOCG big hitters, with plenty of Barolo and Barbaresco and a great selection of Etna Rosso, made primarily from nerello mascalese, an indigenous grape, grown on the slopes of Sicily’s very active volcano, Mount Etna. Outside of Italy, there’s a good showing of white Burgundy, some German Rieslings and a few Argentinian Malbecs, too. On the local end of the spectrum, expect to see a short list of well-known small-batch producers such as Timo Mayer, Quealy and By Farr.
The by-the-glass list is also a good place to get adventurous — Dore likes lesser-known varieties just as much as he likes sustainably produced wines. You might find falanghina, a Campanian staple, alongside gaglioppo, a key Calabrian variety that barely makes it out of the region, or a skin-contact white from Sardinia made from guarnaccia, guardavalle and mantonico on the pour.
And the name? Dore says they chose “Sella Vinoteca” after the famous Inglis horse stables, which were in Newmarket for more than a century. Sella means saddle in Italian, which is a place to sit, and it is also a phonetic version of cellar – a neat combination.