Best places to eat at Sydney's Northern Beaches: chef Matteo Zamboni's picks

 

THE EXPERT

With an impressive career including hatted restaurants in Australia and Michelin-starred establishments in Europe as well as being head chef for the royal family of Qatar, Italian-born Matteo Zamboni is executive chef at Jonah's Restaurant and Boutique Hotel, Whale Beach. The landmark property is celebrating its 90th birthday on January 26. See jonahs.com.au

BREAKFAST

La Banette Boulangerie, a French-style bakery in Avalon, is my go-to spot for a European-style breakfast. They make the best pastries in the area. The croissants are so good that we order freshly baked batches to serve as part of the breakfast offering at Jonah's each morning. Made with lots of butter, they are crisp on the outside with a soft and airy centre, just as a croissant should be. (No website: 28 Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach)

LUNCH

Lunch is a beautiful time of day at Jonah's, located as we are on the clifftop of Whale Beach with extraordinary views over the Pacific Ocean. No matter what the weather, the view is something really special. The frutti di mare seafood platter for two has become a signature dish at Jonah's and a favourite among guests. Served on a three-tiered timber and slate platter, with both hot and cold seafood, this dish showcases what Australian dining is all about. See jonahs.com.au

APERITIVO

Aperitivo hour is an integral part of the Italian culture, especially in summer. We go to the local piazza and enjoy drinks and snacks in the early evening before moving on to dinner. It's a time to socialise and enjoy the nice weather. My favourite place to do this on the Northern Beaches is the Pilu Baretto in Freshwater. It's a lovely spot for an afternoon cocktail or a pre-dinner snack like the salumi misti or calamari fritti. Located outside of the main Pilu restaurant, Baretto offers a more casual dining area where you can hear the waves rolling in at Freshwater Beach with a negroni in hand. It's not exactly a piazza but it's a pretty nice alternative. See pilu.com.au

EARLY FAMILY DINNER

Sotto Sopra in Newport is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in the area for a sophisticated meal in an atmosphere that isn't too formal. It's the perfect option for families – parents can take the kids along and still enjoy a nice meal. My favourite item on the menu is the eggplant parmigiana. This is a staple dish in every Italian home kitchen but Sotto Sopra puts a contemporary twist on it to keep things interesting. They pair the classic ingredients of eggplant and San Marzano tomato, with smoked cheddar and mint in place of the traditional mozzarella and basil. See sottosopra.com.au

DEGUSTATION

When choosing a place to dine out, atmosphere is really important to me. Cottage Point Inn has a beautiful and unique location on the Hawkesbury River in the heart of NSW 's Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. My suggestion would be to trust executive chef Kevin Solomon and indulge in a degustation menu. The dishes are constantly changing here so it's a pleasant surprise every time you go. See cottagepointinn.com.au

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