The Italian Diner is a buzzy, fun and casual diner in the heart of Bangalow specialising in authentic Italian food. It opened almost three years after the well-known Urban Café burnt down in December 2010. The unique location, with a corner site and an outdoor eating area that looks over the heart of Bangalow, provided scope in the fitout for local award-winning architect and Bangalow resident Sharon Fraser.
‘I wanted the feel to be classic and timeless…dark wood combined with white. Something like a 50s Italian restaurant in colour and feel, but without being literal about it. Something that won’t date’, says Sharon.
‘The big Sophia wall of course is a major feature and helps to set the classic Italian era feel…I was a little inspired by the film Big Night set in the 1950s in Little Italy in New York City – about an Italian restaurant run by two brothers in a dark timber and white space, but I also wanted it to be like somewhere the Sopranos would go!’
In fact, Sharon says the staff too are ‘like a family’. Sharon retired from architecture and spent a year in Italy with her husband Steve Esson in 2010. Sharon and Steve work on the floor, and the team also includes business partner and experienced restaurateur Aldo Davanzo, a friend of Sharon’s since they worked in hospitality together 25 years ago at the Royal Hotel in Five Ways Paddington. Head chef is Tom Bower.
‘We use high-quality ingredients. It is family friendly, but also a great place to go on a Friday night with friends for great food, wine and a Campari!’, says Sharon.
‘What we have tried to do is create something authentic and fun that anyone can come to. A simple breakfast with an Italian slant is $10.50 with coffee. Someone who wants to spend $30 (or under) to eat and drink at lunch or dinner can do that. Equally, people can come along and spend a lot more.
Very popular dishes are a wonderful antipasti plate (Sicilian olives, calamari, arancini, beef carpaccio and artichokes ($29 to share for 2–3 people) and for secondi (main course) the bistecca (steak using Barcoo Beef’s finest eye fillet) with truffle mash, rocket and reggiano parmesan ($36) and for dessert the budino al cioccolato chocolate pudding ($13).
‘We have two Italian pizzaoilas who trained, lived and worked in Italy. We have a woodfired pizza oven and they make the real deal ($16–$22). No “shmizza” pizza here (pizza with curried chicken on top!), it’s the simple authentic thin based pizza found in Italy.
‘We have a very affordable wine list: there are $15 cocktails and everything is available by the glass ($7–$12), by the 500ml carafe (a very Italian tradition), and by the bottle ($29–$46 is the normal range excluding premium wines).’
Coffee is treated with the respect it deserves at the Italian Diner. ‘We are all coffee obsessed,’ says Sharon. ‘I cannot tell you how happy with the coffee I am. We have great baristas and a great machine. The coffee is Bun Coffee but the important thing is it’s the espresso strong red bag. We tried all the big names, and this one for us hands down was the best. We get a lot of great feedback about the coffee, and that’s incredibly important to us.’
Another surprising aspect of the design is the attention paid to the acoustics. Sharon says that she ‘has designed a few restaurants as an architect and the biggest mistake people make is not thinking about acoustics. We have a timber floor, not a concrete one (fits in with the dark timber theme) and an acoustic ceiling. The place would be so much noisier without that. People don’t even realise it’s there and that that is one of the reasons why they are comfortable.
‘As an architect I like to think of the little details. Are the chairs comfortable? What are the water bottles like? The candle holders… What stops the chairs from making a lot of noise when you move them around? “God is in the details”, and every little detail adds up to the whole’.
Open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and dinner Wed–Sun (closed Mon and Tues nights). Takeaway pizza available for lunch/dinner.
The Italian Diner
Shop 2, 37–39 Byron St, Bangalow
Ph 02 6687 2247