Lower Ground, 123 Clarence St, Sydney
02 9299 3748
Italian political philosopher and diplomat, Niccolo Machiavelli, once said, ‘It is not titles that honour men, but men that honour titles’. His modern-day namesake, Machiavelli Ristorante, has honoured its title as an Italian institution, delivering traditional and authentic food to an ever- growing audience.
Giovanna Toppi opened Machiavelli in 1988 with her two daughters, creating a space where fine food and wine could be enjoyed. She was perfectly placed to bring the traditional Italian flavours to Sydney’s shores, having grown up watching her mother cook in Naples. When she arrived in Australia, Giovanna continued her culinary journey at Buono Sera, and from there, opened a string of successful restaurants, including La Strada in Potts Point and of course, Machiavelli. After 28 years at the helm of Machiavelli, she gracefully retired from the day-to-day operations, selling the restaurant to Nicholae Bicher, an ex- Olympian who had previously dabbled in hospitality with a cafe in Goulburn.
Nicholae is joined by Executive Chef Laurent Cambon, who has been working with Giovanna on and off since 1994. Here, Laurent infuses his Michelin- star experience into Giovanna’s menu, having completed stints at Parisian restaurants L’Arpege and Au Trou Gascon and spending a number of years in venues throughout the Blue Mountains.
Following the ethos of ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’, Nicholae and Laurent have maintained most of what Giovanna established. This includes the central antipasto table in the middle of cavernous dining room, where prosciutto, ham and salami all hang from the ceiling and bowls filled with avocado, tomatoes and cantaloupe are placed on top. When ordering the antipasto platter, your waiter will hand-pick your ingredients straight from the table, all of which are locally sourced from around the state.
This focus on the finest ingredients extends to the rest of the menu, where Laurent uses only the freshest produce on offer, and wherever possible, organic. Seafood is delivered twice daily from the Sydney Fish Markets, and converted into beautiful dishes that sing with flavour. For mains, try the John Dory – pan-fried, crumbed, or grilled – with fresh vegetables and bread, paired with a classic Italian drop from the extensive wine list.
Seafood isn’t the only main on offer: the menu features all the Italian favourites, including pastas, steaks, seafood and desserts. It’s hard to go past the classic gnocchi, with your choice of a creamy gorgonzola or napoletana sauce. Pasta lover or not, a must-try is the spaghetti Machiavelli, one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
The Machiavelli experience has also extended beyond the Clarence Street building. Head down to Rushcutters Bay to experience the addition to this Italian family – Bar Machiavelli. Run by Giovanna’s daughter, the bar has a more contemporary feel with carefully crafted cocktails and a select range of pasta and antipasto.
In creating and maintaining Machiavelli, Giovanna, and now Nicholae, have taken a leaf out of Machiavelli’s book and created a leader and a legacy with undisputed Italian style. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the matriarch herself – she pops in every now and then to say hello.