It’s no secret that Italy has been in some fairly dire economic circumstances in recent years. This has meant there has been an exodus of its young, highly educated workforce. I was surprised to find on a trip to our Hong Kong office last year a cluster of people from Milan and Rome – extremely talented, they couldn’t be in an environment more different from home (“have you seen the price of prosciutto here!” one of them said to me), but necessity has meant they had to leave it behind and find employment elsewhere.
Australia has also been the beneficiary of this exodus, particularly in hospitality and food. Attracted by our climate – which is not that dissimilar to Southern Italy – our great produce, and an existing large Italian population (they’re bound to find a long lost relative or a cousin somewhere), we’ve seen some very talented Italian chefs, pizzaioli and gelato makers arrive on our shores. Paolo Gatto is one of those. He and his wife Rita arrived in Australia in 2008, and opened Gatto Matto in 2011. It has gotten better and better since my first visit, driven by Paolo’s passion (the name Crazy Cat is no coincidence) and Rita’s warmth. They have now opened a second venue, Sud, which simply means South. Southern Italian street food is the order of the day – it is where they are from, and it is the food close to their heart.
We arrive relatively early but within half an hour the place is buzzing, pretty good just one week after opening. While I sip my Bellini we peruse the menu, which is charmingly smattered with Sicilian dialect, and debate what to order – over-ordering would be very easy here because there is plenty to tempt. Fortunately most dishes are for sharing so we get to try quite a bit, though I see plenty of other dishes emerging from the kitchen, including a fabulous large antipasto platter for a big group, that we will have to try next time. The pizza bases are excellent and so are the toppings. But one of the favourites of the night is the baby octopus that comes with the spiedinu. I find out that it has undergone six hours of confit – if that’s Sicilian street food, unemployment be damned, I’m moving there; the rosemary flavoured wedges that accompany it are delicious too. The trofie cu sugu is also another winner (if it is nonna’s recipe as it says on the menu then to be expected), a fragrant, rich, robust meat sauce.
We are wondering what to order for dessert and aren’t convinced when the raviolo di ricotta is suggested to us, but decide to give it a whirl and we love it. It is a giant raviolio which can easily serve 4, and I’m glad the honey is on the side because I don’t think this light dough with a gorgeous creamy filling needs any further embellishment. The cuzzoli, light ribbons of dough to be dipped in the accompanying Nutella, are a crowd pleaser, but anything with Nutella always will be.
With generous serves, great flavour, and an attractive price point – the most expensive menu item is $28 – you’ll find a great little slice of Southern Italy in downtown Concord.
Sud, 10 Cabarita Road, Concord Ph (02) 9739 6120