Jamie Oliver is officially your favourite celebrity chef. We know because his TV shows always rate their socks off on LifeStyle FOOD, his cookbooks sell in the thousands, and his 50+ recipes on this website are amongst the most visited.
So it was only a matter of time before he extended his popular Italian restaurant chain into the southern hemisphere, opening the first Jamie’s Italian in Sydney recently.
Jamie's Italian is not hard to find, just follow the long line of expectant diners snaking down the road and let your olfactory senses follow the pungent scent of garlic and chilli pervading the air. You’ll find yourself at a bustling rustic Italian trattoria meets industrial delicatessen, where the sounds of an active kitchen are punctuated by loud excited cries from the serving staff.
Jamie may not be behind the burners but his affable cockney presence is everywhere: from his cookbooks lining the shelves to the cheeky waiters and his name on napkins.
With a firm gaze on any project bearing his name, Jamie sent an experienced team out to Sydney to prepare the restaurant and ensure it fit with his vision for a value-led authentic Italian experience for everyone.
There is enough familiarity yet surprises in the starters and entrees to grab your attention: from the crunchy and piping hot ‘Italian Nachos’ or deep-fried ravioli parcels to the Creamy Mozzarella that falls apart beautifully. The best accompaniment is a glass of Jamie’s label Prosecco which has a nice fizz to counter the richness of the snacks.
There’s a large assortment of mains but it’s the pasta that’s the real star here – you know it from the second you see the artisans in the window lovingly pulling and stretching the dough fresh, to the moment when the chefs at the open kitchen throw it into pans of bubbling water to cook. Jamie moves beyond the spaghetti and penne standards and experiments with a host of unusual pasta shapes including paccheri, bucatini and monachelle.
You can see the strategy behind the choices where small shapes hug tender piece of seafood and large coils surround a creamy egg and pancetta mix. Every dish is accented with chilli which keeps the palate awake and engaged. It’s advisable to have a couple of the fresh salads on hand to cool the tongue and the Humble Green Salad does the trick nicely.
Desserts range from the staple Tiramisu – with an orange twist to the cute Brioche con Gelato; two cute dessert sliders of brioche that house a delicious cassata-style gelato.
The only item i had hoped to see on the menu and didn’t was rotolo – the traditional rustic pasta dish of the Emilia-Romagna region. It was this dish that first brought Jamie to fame in 1997 when he was filmed making one theatrically at the iconic River Cafe in London.
When producers saw this outtake of Jamie at work they knew they had a future TV star in the making. Fifteen years on and Jamie’s start still shines brightly on our screens, in our books, and now in our backyard.
Jamie will be popping into Sydney to visit Jamie’s Italian in early March 2012. It’s Jamie’s first visit to Australia since 2010 and he’ll also be visiting his first Australian Ministry of Food centres including the inaugural site in Ipswich and his first Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen, designed as a purpose built kitchen classroom.
107 Pitt Street, Sydney
by Alex Conomos