What I’m looking for in my neighbourhood restaurant is a fool proof, comfortable dining stop where after a busy day, when I can’t face the kitchen myself, I am welcome and fed like a dear friend. It may be the place for celebrating a mini-milestone (like surving a big presso) or simply for when I know I’ve spent too many nights in front of the TV and need to reconnect with a human.
Your local restaurant acts like a surrogate mother with food that nurtures like a comforting hug and meals that are familiar and nourishing. A good neighbourhood restaurant should be no more than a stroll home – far enough to make you feel comfortable ordering dessert, close enough that you can walk it in heels.
What I love about Popolo is that it has a good mix of staples whilst incorporating seasonal options and specials for when you’re up for something different. But the perfect neighbourhood restaurant will be happy for you to order the same thing week in week out, which would be challenging for me at Popolo as I want to try everything.
On the subject of choice, tonight there are three beautiful fresh tuna specials, Tuna Carpaccio, Fresh Tuna Pasta and a Tuna Steak option. We order the Tuna Carpaccio to go with the Pumpkin Flowers, Mozzarella & Cherry Tomatoes ($23) or our starter.
Both are an absolutely smashing start to the evening and I can feel the worries of the week prior dissolving. Pumpkin flowers are very similar to zucchini flowers but the pumpkin flavour really comes through with a lovely flavour and complements the cheese and tomatoes beautifully.
The tuna carpaccio is simple, as it should be, with a stunning, green olive oil and a smattering of greens and little else. It’s delicious.
For main we are sharing the Fregola pasta ($25) which this evening is served as saffron pasta with a pork ragu, rosemary and pecorino. Fregola is those tiny pasta balls that look like Israeli couscous. Cue the nourishment. Cue the hug from the inside out.
We also ordered the Emilia pizza which is the Ham, Fior de Latte, Ricotta & Basil pizza. Divine. For a restaurant that doesn’t specialise in pizza this is terrific. Other favourites are the Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.
Crema Catalana ($16) is how we are going to wrap things up with a beautiful dessert wine which reminds me of turkish delight. The Catalana is a Sardinian style crème brulee served with caramelised peanuts and orange segments. Like the rest of the city I’m going through a massive peanut phase (well peanut butter to be honest) and love this with the dessert.
A casual stroll home following dinner is the final essential ingredient for the perfect local restaurant. I’d you had a Popolo in every neighbourhood, the world would be a better place.
50 McLachlan Avenue, Rushcutters Bay | + 61 2 9361 6641