PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
As the sun filters through the Bourke Street trees on its way to bed each evening, the queue of hungry hopefuls grows outside Il Baretto. This Surry Hills institution has been a local favourite for more than nine years, dishing up lip-smacking Italian pastas in a cosy nook full of character. With a strict dinner no-bookings policy and a horde of devotees, the punters who line the street in anticipation of scoring a table would probably rather keep this trattoria to themselves, but it's just too good to keep secret. When the doors swing open at 6pm, those who miss out on a seat leave their numbers on the waiting list and head across the road for a tie-over drink and BYO selection at the local pub. Fortunately, the efficient service and high turnover means it won't be long before you're back in Il Baretto's arms, drawing in the open kitchen's belly-rumble-inducing aromas.
After quite some time perfecting the menu, the restaurant's offerings now stay relatively unchanged, with an assortment of specials changing fortnightly (take a peek at the giant paper menu attached to the wall). This is simple Italian cookery at its best. Follow the advice of regulars and tuck into the signature pappardelle with duck ragu – a deliciously rich dish that will have you eyeing off the quacking species with greed. An equally tempting option is the mix-and-match home-made pasta – choose from gnocchi, spaghetti or penne and a range of sauces including arrabbiata, bolognese, pesto, gorgonzola, carbonara or piccanti. Devilish tiramisu or perfectly formed panna cotta offers a suitably decadent end to the evening. If you're unwilling to wait for a table, Il Baretto also offers speedy takeaway, but keep in mind payment is by cash only.