Café Sopra is a little touch of Italy hidden amongst the trendy cafés of Danks St, Waterloo. To get to it you must first walk through the gourmet wholesale heaven that is Fratelli Fresh. The produce is certainly what it claims to be, and the glistening fruits and vegetables are all lined up perfectly side by side – a showcase of what’s in season at the moment.
Traditional Italian cheeses such as bocconcini and grana padano line the tall fridges alongside plump green olives and white anchovies. Near the back end of the store you will discover pantry goods: chutneys, jams, muesli, beautifully ridged mafalda pasta and a variety of bottled fruit juices and teas.
To get to Café Sopra, you will have to travel via a staircase where even more imported pantry items of every variety are located; everything imaginable of the canned, jarred or packaged variety.
Huge jars of anchovies!
Finally, the dark-timbered, open-plan eatery will be arrived at, and surely bustling with customers. The only menu is a vast blackboard which adds to the unique experience of a café above a grocery store. Why question it?
As all customers do, I had to stand in front of the menu and gaze at the overwhelming number of items from entrees and mains through to contorno (side dishes), dolce (dessert) and formaggio (cheeses). Which isn’t a bad thing, per se, but makes it so hard to stick to one dish – there is so much good stuff here!
My Italy-obsessed companion and I finally decided to share the Pan-fried Gnocchi with Mushroom Ragù and Tallegio ($22). It was so gloriously pillowy and by far the best gnocchi experience I’ve had so far. The pan-fried texture of the one side worked really well with the softness of the gnocchi itself. The ragù imparted a rich earthy flavour and the tallegio shavings added another element of depth to the flavour-packed dish.
If we hadn’t of shared, the generous portion would have meant no space for dessert. We had to get dessert! We decided on the Mascarpone Panna Cotta with Poached Strawberries ($14.50) and what a great choice it was. The panna cotta had the perfect amount of wobble and didn’t collapse upon the will of the spoon. The tart strawberries cut through the creaminess of the dessert but I didn’t care for them too much – the panna cotta was delicious enough as it was.
All in all, I had a great time discovering that there’s more to the Italian food scene in Sydney than I originally thought. Simple, authentic flavours done well – that’s why people keep coming back to this well-established café.