By daytime, family-run La Capannina looms in the shadows of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli and by night, diners catch glimpses of yachts and boats ferrying about in the harbour. The seafood-dominated Italian menu features specialties from the owner’s hometown, Capri.
Walking across the bowling club greens, sparkling fairy lights hanging from a leafless tree create a magical entrance to La Capannina. But our journey from car to restaurant is briefly interrupted. We accidentally walk into the next-door community hall where a dance class is about to begin and after an awkward encounter, we retreat to La Capannina and the warm embrace of our host Lino Mascolo. A far-cry from the accepted ‘red-and-white chequered table cloth and violin-playing’ scenario so often encountered at Italian restaurants, there is a simple yet elegant air about La Capannina. Classy chocolate hues and modern lines dominate the restaurant space with areas for both intimate, romantic meals or round group tables for a little fun.
Owner Lino Mascolo and his daughter, Francesca run the restaurant like clockwork in a dynamic that only seems to occur when working with family. While the father-and-daughter duo may have done away with Italian-themed furnishings, the loving, warm and boisterous Italian hospitality remains. As guests stream into the restaurant, Lino and Francesca welcome each guest like old friends and perhaps they all are. But that’s the thing about the hospitality industry, if a restaurateur treats you well, they will quickly develop a loyal crowd of regulars. And my suspicions are affirmed when, by the time our food arrives, the restaurant is close to full on a rather chilly Tuesday night. Usually it’s only the cheap Thai joints, opposite Hoyts, that are full with the ‘tight-arse Tuesday movie’ crowd.
Our entree arrives with perfect timing – Fritturina mista di pesce – a crisp selection of lightly fried calamari, prawns, octopus, zucchini and eggplant. We plunge each bite-size morsel of salty seafood in a creamy dill and lemon mayo. Usually my ‘oh-so-manly’ better half will skirt around the vegetable additions in a dish but not tonight. He greedily finishes the eggplant and zucchini before I’ve even had a chance to sample one. But I don’t complain. Rather, I make a mental note that will be voiced when our mains arrive.
Now, if pizza is your penchant, then this isn’t the place, but if seafood reigns supreme, then you won’t know where to look on the menu. While Italian in feel, the menu is dominated with classic Capri seafood dishes. The seared john dory is crisp and fresh and sided with a raw fennel, radish and cherry tomato salad and crisp potatoes. The crispy pork belly is served on a salty yet sweet eggplant puree with toasted pine nuts and feta cheese. The restaurant may indeed attract an older crowd of yacht-sailing Lower North Shore types but the reasonably-priced food, which is ridiculously hard to fault, will undoubtedly draw in a greater demographic of die-hard-foodies in the search for fine Italian food matched with good, honest hospitality.
At daytime, it looms in the shadows of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Kirribilli. Ten minutes from the CBD, across Sydney Harbour Bridge and directly below Milson’s Point train station. Water taxi service also available to the wharf which is a five minute walk away.
Lino Mascolo, former owner of North Sydney’s L’Incontro, and his daughter Francesca, have taken over the former Kirribilli bowling club venue for La Capannina.
Read more about La Capannina here