Papa knows best. Pasticceria Papa Haberfield launches new menu and OMG the best baked cheesecake in Sydney!

It’s been ages since I have walked the streets of Haberfield. It’s making me hungry as I pass deli after deli. Even the IGA feels like stepping into an regional Italian corner shop. Then there is Papas – an inner west icon (now in Bondi) famed for its legendary baked ricotta cheesecake – a blockbuster cake with a fan following built up over 50 years. We hear there is a new menu and ‘12 tartlets of Christmas’ to check out.

We enter Papa’s via the restaurant door. It has an ambiance reminiscent of a Venetian trattoria with wooden floors, brick pizza oven and adorned with vintage photographs. To the right is a deli which simultaneously defies the laws of physics by being a cake, gelato and bakery haven. I’m talking about a cake counter so vast, it’s like Willy Wonka went Italian. Shelves are heaving with loaves bookended with fridges laden gelato and the mythical beast – the baked ricotta cheesecake.

Restaurant dining room

We take our seats in the restaurant which is filling up quickly. People are ordering antipasti boards, plates of heaving pasta and soft focaccia. There is a well priced wine list and great coffee. 

I order a prosecco ($10) and it arrives with a strawberry perched on the glass. I can’t help but feel nostalgic. Who does this these days? It all feels homely and authentically familiar.

We kick off with local calamari and salmon carpaccio. Both dishes have the flavours which connect to traditions but offer creative execution. The calamari is a chunky looking chap, tendrils chopped, deep fried with a wedge lemon on the side. I am transported to the shores of Naples. It’s fresh, honest and enjoyable. Salmon carpaccio is dotted with chilli, dill and segments of lemon. It’s a well balanced, pretty dish. 

The homemade tagliolini egg pasta is homage to the Piedmont region. Strands of pasta are al dente nestled in a generous cherry tomato & basil sauce with lashings of blue swimmer crab. It’s the pizza that really gets both of us excited. The Tartufo pizza is a glorious sight; crumbs of Italian sausage and porcini mushrooms lie on top of thinly sliced, slightly crispy potato on a creamy fior di latte base. Just when a mouthful can’t get any better the whiff of truffle hits us. The crust is nicely leoparded and the base is just thin enough to withhold a one handed fold and munch.  

My dining companion Penny, is already eyeing off the ‘special’ lemon tiramisu. Sounds a bit weird, but she’s Greek Cypriot and anything with lemon already has an advantage. A square of technically perfect tirra sits in front of us. These layers could have been made with a set square, such is the precision of the spacing of soaked savoiardi biscuits and mascarpone twinned with a dousing of lemon. It’s great.  

I have decided that the Torta di Ricotta con Nutella ($14) is the Crufts of the cheesecake world. This signature creation is a twist on their signature baked ricotta cake, and let me tell you, it’s a bona fide masterpiece. It’s light, fluffy and delicate flavour has an insanely velvety texture unlike any cheesecake I have had before. The addition of Nutella is a match made in Aussie dessert heaven. 

12 Tartlets of Christmas

We leave with a box set of the ‘12 tartlets of Christmas’. It’s doubtful they will last beyond 12 hours to be fair let alone 12 days. The lemon meringue is the first to be smashed. The shortcrust pastry is deliciously good. Eleven to go…

In a city which is always embracing the ‘new’ Papa’s emerges as a reminder of enjoying ‘the greats’. There is a reason The Godfather still delights audiences today. Papa’s Pasticceria Papa is a 50 year old story woven into the fabric of Sydney’s history and it has got more chapters to come. Yes. Papa knows best. 

Christmas options

Papas Haberfield, 145 Ramsay St, Haberfield NSW 2045,
Hours – Open 7.30am till late, check website for details
12 Days of Tartlets – $48.  The box includes one tartlet of each:

  • White chocolate & Raspberry,Nutella & Caramel
  • Pecan Pie
  • Lemon Meringue
  • Strawberry
  • Mixed Berry
  • Ricotta & Choc-chip
  • Mascarpone & Milk Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate & Pistachio
  • Lime Curd & Hazelnuts
  • Raspberry, Mango with Coconut Crumble
  • Coffee & Dulce De Leche

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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