Growing up in an Italian family makes me a bit of a food snob, especially when it comes to traditional Italian food. So when I was invited to try Da Mario, in Sydney’s Rosebery, expectations were high.

On first impressions, Da Mario delivered an excited, loud and very European atmosphere, with a warehouse feel and warm wooden and exposed brick vibes. The restaurant also features antique and vintage wine barrels and pasta machines, making you really feel like you’re in the alleyways and backstreets of an Italian city. Not to mention all the waitstaff are European too!

The menu is quite traditional, with all menu items listed in their Italian names. There’s a vast selection of antipasti, entrees, pizza, pasta and meat dishes, making your choice near impossible, as everything reads deliciously. After much contemplation and struggling to nail our order down to an appropriate amount, we decided on a mix of entrees, pizza and pasta, and a glass of rose to top it all off.

Let’s just start with the olive ascolana. OMG. These were crumbed and deep fried green olives stuffed with pork and veal. Crispy, salty, meaty and juicy… I’ve never had anything like this before, and if you’re a fan of olives these are an absolute must – my favourite of the evening.

Now onto the serious stuff… Capricciosa pizza is my favourite, and it’s something I often order in restaurants. When I was in Florence a few years back I was eating it constantly. When the pizza arrived at the table I was instantly transported back to one of the tiny alleyway restaurants off the beaten track in Florence that I became so fond of.

A soft crust that puffed around the edges, topped with tomato sauce, mushrooms, ham and artichokes – and when I took the first bite, it tasted exactly like the pizza in Florence – delicious!

It wouldn’t be a proper Italian meal without pasta, so we settled on the spaghetti mare. It was another hit, with juicy Morton bay bugs, zucchini and a touch of chilli with a tomato sauce. I also get really excited when my pasta is cooked properly (al dente) and I can confirm this was spot on. If the food being yum wasn’t enough, they also give the table your own bowl of Parmesan cheese and chilli oil, eliminating the awkward “tell me when” moment when a waiter is grating cheese on your food. I don’t know about you, but I like a lot of cheese, so being able to serve myself was ideal.

 Da Mario would be a definite recommendation to anyone looking for great tasting, reasonably priced, and ‘real’ Italian food in Sydney – and I can’t wait to visit them again to try some of the other amazing food on their menu.

-Arielle O’Neill / Instagram. Top image provided.

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