You know that feeling when you have known someone for a while but never really noticed them? Then one day something changes and it’s pow! Hello luvva! We feel a bit like that about Vanto. How did we miss this one? Perhaps it’s location on the first floor of the QVB, we blame champagne bar Reign for this loss of memory.
Vanto was founded years ago by Italian trio; Luigi Peluso, (an award winning pizza chef from Naples), head chef Filippo Perra (son of a butcher) and charismatic, front of house managing partner Santino Agrillo – (a former Sicilian detective) – perhaps that’s why they have killer pizzas? Read on!
It’s a beautiful restaurant with stained glass windows, framed by historic cream arches, a wall of wine and commissioned crystal chandeliers. Outside is the perfect social distancing experience. Tables are spaced around the curved iron balcony of the QVB, providing a bird’s eye perch and plenty of fresh air.
We start with a crisp Logia Prosecco and match it with a classic combo of prosciutto and oozy Stella burrata. The involitini is a marriage of flavours; baked swordfish, soft cheese and herbs wrapped in thin layers of eggplant.
The fritturina of calamari stops us mid chomp. Mmmm… what the…? As a reviewing rule we alway order salt ‘n pepper squid – its our talent barometer of chefs. Every restaurant and every cuisine has their version. This is ‘off the charts’ good. It’s the way it should be, but often isn’t. Crunchy (yep you can hear it), warm (sounds obvious but often not), not greasy (often is) this is juicy, flavoursome, seasoned and so fresh. Woah.
Next up are the pastas. Slow cooked beef and pork is a luscious blend of silky ragu flavours tumbled with daily homemade pasta which creates a jenga line on the plate and palate.
The gnocchi with prawns, zucchini flowers and Stracciatella cheese might not look that pretty but who cares? The gnocchi are tiny flavour bombs in a rich seafood bisque so good we call the chef over to get his secrets.
Next up the pizza. We leave this one till last, as chef Luigi is a 25yr master of this craft. He’s won numerous awards, including the world’s biggest pizza festival in Napoli. Vanto’s cuisine is Ospitalità Italiana certified reflecting the passion for origin, ingredients, method and authentictity.
Our favourite Neapolitan pizza was formerly from Pizzeria da Alfredo in Glebe, but that trophy has been toppled. We’ve been on food writing trips to Naples in the last 18 months. We know what great pizza tastes like, and its here. THIS IS IT. It starts with the dough which is proved for over 62-70 hours (see recipe here – thanks guys!!). This means your tummy loves it. Its not heavy as the proteins have been broken down so there are no worrying tummy side effects. It’s got attitude, structure, and flavour.
The classic Salsiccia arrives first. You must gaze at this beauty… puffy scorched edges, creamy fior de latte base, strands of golden caramalised onions are interwoven with generous nuggets of Italian sausage. On first bite its smoky, meaty, crispy, and then the truffle kicks in. Oh my! We go classic parma prosciutto next. A bite into a triangle reveals layers of flavour from the buffalo mozzarella, earthy truffle, mushrooms and a silkiness from the Evoo olive oil.
Its hard to go on from pizza, but we have to try street food favourite the woodfired Sandwich (or Panuozzo), deriving from a town called Gragnano. It’s double baked. Bread first, then stuffed. We opt for non-traditional fillings of chicken and pesto. It’s darn good!
Now we are quite aware this sounds all a bit, well, gushy. But that’s just how it is. How did we not see you, honour you, or share you with our Daily Addict foodies? The guilt is for us to bare, but we are glad we came to eat (also drink a beautiful glass of Acanto Primitivo from Puglia). We got to meet this wonderful team of personalities who create a dining experience not often found in Sydney.
In Arnie’s words… “l (we) will be back”.
Vanto,Level 1, QVB Building
Hours: Monday – Closed. Tues & Wed – 11am to 4pm, Thurs & Fri – 11am to 4pm, 5pm to 9pm, Sat – 11am to 4pm, Sun – Closed