In Short: Cavallino Ristorante delivers modern Italian flavours expertly and each dish is packed with a ton of it. Its Terrey Hills location is accommodating, and relaxed. With a pizza oven fired up and fresh pasta ready to hit the boiling water, a visit here is ultimately rewarding. If you are looking beyond pizza and pasta, check with the front of house to see what fish is available and try it out like I did.
Terrey Hills is the northern beaches suburb with acreage and Ku-ring-ai National Park at its doorstep. On a weekend you will see hundreds of cyclists riding through suburb on their way out to West Head, or you may see many landholders with their horses. A leafy suburb with a somewhat rural feel and a culinary repertoire which contains a surprising variety of cuisines. One of our favourite restaurants Urban Tadka calls Terry Hills home and so does Cavallino Ristorante.
For those in the know, Cavallino was originally operated by Italian restaurant heavyweights Giovanni Pilu and Lido Russo. While they may have moved on, new owners in 2020 have reset the menu and operations and look to reinvigorate the space with a simplified menu that focuses on execution and providence. Take for example Cavallino’s approach with seafood. They have partnered with suppliers in Port Stephens, that deliver seafood directly from the trawlers to Terrey Hills. Again, this approach has allowed the menu to be dynamic and delightful. More on that further down in this post.
Cavallino’s space is cavernous. I loved the raked ceiling, that accentuates the big space, and with the longer days, it spills beautiful soft light until well after sunset. There is stone and wood that give the space real warmth. While I can imagine it could fit upwards to 100 people, I really enjoyed the social distancing setup which allows for relaxed and intimate experience.
Any quality Italian feast has to start off with bread and at Cavallino it’s Ciabatta Altamura with Buffalo Ricotta, Honey and Lemon Thyme. I loved the buttery, yellow tinged ciabatta. It was light and mated perfectly with the lemon thyme infused ricotta. Pops of saltiness form the ricotta with the sweetness of honey round out that perfect beginning.
A brief interlude before entrée allows for the sampling of an Italian Bosca Asti. A moscato grape is the foundation for this wine and while moscato wines tend to be sweet, the Bosca Asti is drier with a nice tingling finish. It’s bubbly and fun way to start an Italian odyssey.
The table is then treated to an entrée titled Fritto Misto Piemontese which was a medley of prawns and calamari on a bed of roasted vegetables. An alluringly presented entrée by the kitchen. I loved the textures! Of course the prawns and calamari were cooked to perfection with a light and crisp batter. I found the roasted capsicum and eggplant added the perfect dimensionality of that toasty sweet flavour. Crisped strings of fennel was a nice surprise at the bottom.
If you wanted to, I am guessing you could get a spag bol at Cavallino, but then you would be missing out by not trying a more delicate and refined pasta offering like a Tajarin with a Pork Sausage Ragu, and Wild Italian Mushrooms. The tajarin pasta is softer in texture I found to other pastas which are typically served al dente. The pork sausage is flavourful, with a subtle level of spice and herbs. Wild mushrooms inject its earthiness to the mix and a small hints of truffle completes this high quality pasta offering. While the the rockstar pasta offering at Cavallino may be the scampi taglionlini, this tajarin will definitely reward those who take a chance on it.
You know how I spoke earlier in this post that Cavallino source their seafood from a supplier at Port Stephens, well, it was the same supplier that provided the blue eyed trevally that was the crowning glory for the night’s meal. Twenty four hours earlier we were not having this dish, yet, it’s that dynamicity of having access to what the trawler brings in, that allowed the chef to create Travelly with Bagnet(parsley, anchovy, garlic and lemon dressing). The fish was treated perfectly. I loved how the white flesh of the trevally just flaked apart. It was firm yet light, and so moist. The Bagnet imparts a herbaceous flavour and is subtle enough to not overtake the mild flavour of the fish.
To round out a spectacular night of Italian cuisine, a plate with a splatter of Wild Berries with Zabaglione was a little culinary theatre. The zabaglione was appropriate as we head into the Christmas season with its egg cloud creation. The berries cut through the richness of the zabaglione and hints of chocolate in the background ensures the sweetest of the conclusions.
Totally satisfied, I headed out of Terrey Hills and I was rather pleased that I could add another Italian restaurant to the quality section of the lists we keep. Cavallino’s reboot is timely as Sydney heads out of the pandemic. It has space to cater to large groups and the surrounds are intimate and feel country club like. There is an exciting wine list filled with quality from Italy and a few local offerings. Put simply, you will not be disappointed if you choose to dine at Cavallino Ristorante.
*Coco and Vine dined as guests of Rojo Consulting and Cavallino Ristorante. However, all opinions and photos are our own.