“Time Out Says
Woolloomooloo welcomes a taste of Napoli to the Finger Wharf in time for summer
In one of Sydney’s most prized locations you’ll find Il Pontile, the culmination of four generations of Italian cooking. Woolloomooloo’s Finger Wharf is home to some of the most popular and platial restaurants in town, and with neighbours like China Doll and OTTO, expectations are high for this Italian newcomer.
The waterfront atrium is the work of fourth-generation restaurateur and Naples native Mario Percuoco – son of legendary Sydney restaurateur Armando Percuoco, of Buon Ricordo – a pedigree to match the dazzling views. Percuoco has fitted out the former Amalfi Way site and spared no expense, with understated and elegant features throughout including neutral sandstone and a glass wine cellar that takes pride of place. Bifold doors create cohesion between the indoor and outdoor spaces and the oceanic backdrop does much of the talking.
Given the proximity to the ocean, it’s only fitting to start with crudo of kingfish, flying fish roe, raspberries and pretty-in-purple bell flowers. A clean, delicate and balanced first act. Up next is that great litmus test of a confident Southern Italian restaurant: the zucchini flower. Tradition dictates a light, tempura-like coating around a blossom stuffed with any combination of soft cheeses from ricotta, to gorgonzola, parmesan, or mozzarella. The Il Pontile take utilises the less dense and more unwieldy burrata with house semi-dried tomatoes, which lack the structural integrity and explains the thick fish and chips style batter acting as load bearer.
Who doesn’t love a little theatre with their lunch? The seafood linguini en papillote is presented and unwrapped at your table, a shining star taking centerstage as plumes of steam are released from within the parchment package. It appears, however, that the understudy has taken the lead and this promising spectacle lacks enthusiasm, although a whack of chilli and a few minutes less cooking would save the show.
Thankfully, the incredibly refreshing intermission of the salty-sweet anguria e caprino, a simple cube of blushing watermelon, topped with semi-soft feta and molasses, provides the ideal palate cleanser before a pistachio-crusted fillet of tuna lumbers onto the scene. Generously proportioned and just kissed with heat to leave a crimson interior that contrasts beautifully with the verdant green of the pistachio crust, this hearty dish is a little under-seasoned for this scribe’s tastes.
Pleasingly, while many Sydney venues have struggled to find experienced staff, due to an absence of the usual influx of international talent and the impacts of lockdown on the industry, Il Pontile has managed to secure some of the finest hospos in town. Glasses of crisp vermentino never run dry, service is polished, professional and personable and aproned waitstaff glide throughout. The decision to open a seafood restaurant on the harbour is perhaps an obvious one but at a point, we must reconcile where atmosphere and cuisine intersect. We come together in beautiful places to, of course, enjoy a meal, but moreover, we come together for the escapism. There are not many places on earth where you can sip a glass of Champagne while people watching those fortunate souls on mega yachts. The purpose of restaurants like Il Pontile is to embrace the beauty of place, whether that be a a sunset over the Gulf of Naples or right here in the harbour city.”