ellaslist reviews Vanto - Authentic Italian In The CBD
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With the pandemic casting a shadow over our social lives, and so many places restricted and events cancelled, we need to seek out fun when we can. On this wintery Friday night that meant a Sydney CBD dining adventure. A ferry across the harbour at sunset and a quick ride on the whizz-bang new light rail, and we were right outside our intended destination - the iconic Queen Victoria Building. While the city streets are missing the teeming throngs of the pre-COVID days, the bright lights, scattering of thrillseekers and melodic buskers all create a buzz that makes the town centre feel alive.
We venture through the ornate archways of the QVB and are delighted to see the very early arrival of the famous Christmas tree serving as a canvas for a vibrant large-scale art installation. It’s amazing!
Expect The Unexpected
Now the QVB is perhaps better known for its stylish shopping and festive fanfare, rather than as a place for a family dinner to usher in the weekend, but we made the pilgrimage on good authority that a delightful Italian restaurant was tucked away on the first floor. All the stores are closed, and there is a peaceful ambience as we make our way down the hallowed aisle to Vanto.
The restaurant is not at all what we expected. An elegant ‘indoor’ area with cosy couch seating, intimate nooks and a welcoming warmth is reminiscent of an Italian cafe, and an ‘outdoor’ area with tables casually spilling out into the expansive QVB offers a spacious, open and unique alternative.
We choose an exterior table for the novelty - and because it’s always good to have a space buffer with kids - but steal moments away throughout the evening to peek through the large arched windows that expose the kitchen area. We are fascinated and entertained by the dough-wielding and pizza-making skills of the award-winning Neapolitan pizza chef, Luigi Peluso, before his masterpieces are surrendered to the blazing wood fire oven. I’m told Peluso matures all pizza dough for 60-72 hours to create his celebrated light, fluffy texture, that is fragrant and easier to digest.
Just Like Mama Used To Make
The extensive lunch and dinner menu is full of robust Italian favourites bursting with exotic cheeses and rich flavours, plus daily specials. The antipasti selection is laced with regional delicacies like prosciutto, burrata and calamari. The pasta is all made in house with a variety of meat, seafood and vegetarian creations. The array of wood-fired pizzas include traditional, healthy and special options, with wholemeal and gluten-free bases available, plus their house speciality wood fire sandwiches.
While Vanto is famed for its authentic Naples-style pizza, I confess that the kids and I could not look past the home-made pasta. Gnocchi is my kryptonite. However, we did share a kids margarita pizza, made all the more delicious by it’s Mickey Mouse form, and my companion just had to try the signature ‘Panuzzo’ (pizza-bread sandwich).
To start, we indulged in a perfect plate of tender golden calamari with tartare sauce. My hungry bambinos ordered simple staples - gnocchi Napoletana and spaghetti with butter and cheese (kids will be kids!) - describing them later as ‘yummy’ and ‘the best gnocchi I’ve ever had’. The servings were generous and flavourful, and the pasta fresh and soft. They made light work of their Italian feast, including an obligatory side of shoestring fries and the Disney-inspired mini pizza.
My main, on the other hand, was anything but simple. The Gnocchi Ai Gemberi E Stracciatella looked as fancy as it sounds! Pillows of hand-rolled gnocchi, topped with prawns, zucchini flowers, Italian cheese and a spicy breadcrumb, were bursting with colour and flavour, and a zingy crunch. It was deliciously decadent.
The Panuzzo, with 7-hour, slow-cooked pulled lamb, whipped feta and rocket between the wood-fired bread was a hearty and scrumptious sandwich. Though probably better suited to a lunchtime treat, it was tasty and satisfying, oozing with juicy meat and cheesy goodness.
While us teetotalers enjoyed our accompanying sparkling mineral water, Vanto does offer expert wine pairings for those that fancy a tipple. We polished off our mains and the kids strolled around the first floor for some after-hours window shopping, while we squeezed in our tea, coffee and mouth-watering sticky date cake.
Come As You Are
Despite the opulent surroundings and fine Neapolitan cuisine, Vanto is completely unpretentious. Founded by three Italian natives, they maintain the family values of their heritage and channel all their energy into creating authentic Italian food for everyone to enjoy. The staff are friendly, the service impeccable, and the atmosphere mellow and unrushed.
Vanto showcases an evolving seasonal menu of handcrafted dishes using locally sourced ingredients and some key products directly from Italy for a genuine experience. Quality family dining can be hard to come by in the centre of the city, but Vanto offers a welcome alternative from ubiquitous fast food and a calm reprieve from the hustle and bustle. Open five days a week for a relaxed lunch, a night out or a coffee-and-cake shopping pitstop, this charming Italian eatery is Bellissimo!
Vanto – Essentials
Tuesday - Wednesday from 11am to 4 pm
Thursday - Friday from 11 am to 9 pm
Saturday from 11 am to 4pm
Sunday & Monday - Closed
Sydney's Queen Victoria Building (QVB).
Located on Level 1, Town Hall side.
See the menu, make a booking and find out more at Vanto.
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