I had the privilege of dining at Osteria Balla Sydney way back in 2010, in the first few weeks of its opening. I was travelling through the cityu and I had heard rave reviews about a new Italian restaurant that had opened up at The Star (a casino-hotel-luxury shopping district), also home to some of the finest restaurants in Sydney. Osteria Balla as it was called is a modern Italian restaurant built in the style of a casual osteria. Balla adopts an artisanal approach to Italian food, with great finesse. Everything on the menu is made in Balla’s kitchen: sauce, pasta, bread and gelato. I ended up having a spectacular Italian meal, paired with great wine, and was honoured to have had Chef Stefano sit at our table and chat with us for over an hour. He was thrilled to receive an Indian writer at his restaurant. The food and, of course, his Italian hospitality was unmatched.
My previous visit to the star included a 12-course French degustation menu by Chef Sean Connolly, which was a 3.5 hour culinary extravaganza, which was one of the best meals I had ever tasted in my life. And there I was back at The Star to dine at Balla, the brainchild of someone who is considered to be the father of Italian fine dining in Sydney – Chef Stefano Manfredi. From his humble beginnings, opening a restaurant (The Restaurant Manfredi) in the back street of a gastronomically untouched Sydney, way back in 1983, to owning one of the city’s finest restaurants at the most premium of addresses has been a long journey.
This week, as part of Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Month, Chef Stefano Manfredi and his team (as well as his long-time business partner, and ex-wife Julie Manfredi) hosted a wonderful dinner at Balla to celebrate the 30th anniversary. The evenings 5-course meal was advertised through the Good Food Month’s various channels and, expectedly, it was house full. I was privileged enough to have been invited my Chef Stefano and his team, to be part of this celebratory dinner.
By the time I got there, it was 7pm, the Australian summer sun was still out and the restaurant was bathed in natural light. The huge glass floor-to-ceiling windows gave us spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge and the city skyline.
I was seated at a table with a wonderful bunch of people. The deputy editor of one of Sydney’s finest food magazines, a girl from Vogue Austraila and, most interestingly, with Rebecca Varidel, who is probably Australia’s most popular food blogger. She told me she was asked by the Smithsonian in the USA to do a guest write-up on Julia Child, is on first name basis with the world’s top chefs and even told me that Wasabi is a great restaurant in Mumbai.
Once we were seated, champagne was served as an aperitif.
The evening’s meal was a showcase of five different dishes from Manfredi’s repertoire, over the years, paired with exquisite wine and bubbly.
And between course, we heard wonderful speeches by Stefano Manfredi, watched a video where he shared his passion for fine produce with us. He even took us into his vegetable patch, where he was cutting fresh veggies for his kitchen. Juli3 Manfredi stepped up for a few minutes to thank everyone for being so supportive over the past three decades and cheerfully thanked her business partner Stefano “for being the best ex-husband one could ever ask for”.
Here’s what the meal looked like
After Manfredi’s own branded espresso, it was time to say Auguri (Congratulations) to the chef and his team. And thank them for a wonderful evening.
Happy 30th Anniversary Stefano Manfredi. Here’s to many more years of indulgent Italian food.