When it comes to Sydney’s dining institutions, no list is complete without mentioning Beppi’s. For more than 60 years, Beppi’s has provided Sydney diners with a true taste of Italy.
Like many restaurants from its era, the much-loved eatery is named after its founder, Giuseppe Polese, or Beppi for short. Much of Beppi’s career was based in Australia but his culinary journey started well before then.
Beppi left his hometown near Venice in 1940 and headed to Milan in search of work. He found a job as a kitchen-hand, quickly learning to cook and wait tables. Within a few years, he found himself working at the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice, one of the world’s top hotels at the time. It was the start of a grand career in hospitality that spanned over seven decades – his only break came when he was captured by enemy forces and interned during the war, later escaping to fight for the resistance movement north east of Venice.
The war ended, but jobs were scarce, so, like many other Italians, Beppi moved to Australia. After arriving in Melbourne, Beppi headed to Sydney, saving enough money to eventually purchase a little eatery in Yurong Street in 1956. However, he struggled to find a customer who would try his specialty – calamari and mussels. Eventually, his persistence paid off, and the restaurant went on to collect a multitude of awards.
Sadly, Beppi passed away in 2016. His son and long-time business partner, Marc, continues to run the restaurant. Beppi isn’t the only one in the family to receive some of Australia’s top hospitality awards; Marc and his mother, Norma, ran another Sydney institution, Mezzaluna in Potts Point, for nearly 20 years. Today they are helped in the kitchen by Joe Gurrieri-Lia who, after working at both Mezzaluna and Beppi’s for almost two decades, is practically family.
As you would expect from a restaurant that has well and truly stood the test of time, Beppi’s focuses on traditional and authentic fare. Start with a selection of primi piatti and antipasti, where fresh seafood takes centre stage in dishes like the zuppa di cozze e vongole – a light fish broth with mussels, clams and tomato, finished with plenty of parsley and garlic.
Next there’s a tight but delicious range of pastas. Choose from pumpkin ravioli with burnt butter and sage sauce, or squid ink spaghetti served with prawns, clams and a kick of chilli.
Move onto a selection of carne and pesce – meat and fish – where simple family recipes create heroes out of each cut of meat. Try a traditional saltimbocca, where milk fed veal scaloppini is wrapped in San Daniele prosciutto, asiago cheese and sage, and then served with white wine sauce. Another popular dish is the rich osso buco served with peas and polenta. Just like in Italy, seafood is served simply so diners can taste the true flavours of the fish – West Australian scampi or local John Dory fillets are grilled and served with a side of roasted capers with lemon and parsley.
You’ll always find the perfect vino to accompany your meal. Along with a strong list of Australian and Italian wines imported by the Polese family, there is an extensive list of vintage wines from the Polese family cellars, with some bottles dating back to the 1960s. These bottles grace the walls of the cellar area of the restaurant, which is also home to a collection of private dining rooms.
It’s hard to remember a time when Italian cuisine was hard to come by, but Beppi’s has been there from the very start. For over 60 years, the Polese family have warmly welcomed guests and they show no signs of slowing down.