Eat & Drink Out

Caffè Bartolo Surry Hills

Caffè Bartolo, an all day Italian eatery by renowned hospitality operator Jared Merlino has taken up residence along Crown Street.

Caffè Bartolo
Caffè Bartolo – Photo: MY MEDIA

Occupying the former site of Bills (which moved down the road), Caffè Bartolo is the first solo venture from Jared Merlino, co-owner of The Lobo PlantationKittyhawk and Big Poppa’s. His latest venue is a departure from the others and embodies his concept for an Italian eatery with low abv drinks while paying homage to his family and Italian lineage.

Named after Merlino’s great-grandfather who emigrated to Australia from Lipari, Sicily, he dedicated Caffè Bartolo to his grandmother Mary Merlino who passed away in 2018. Look around the bright and inviting space and you’ll see family photographs and historical references including the greyhound motif as a tribute to his grandmother’s sister who bred the animals. Bartolo’s signature features on the wine glasses.

With indoor and outdoor seating, Caffè Bartolo has a welcoming feel to it whether you’re dining in daylight hours or the evening. Inside, take a seat at either the marble top tables, banquettes against the wall or at the bar, and if you’re a large group, two long timber tables can be joined together to give you that Italian family meal vibe.

The offerings at Caffè Bartolo are distinctly Italian. Teofilo Nobrega, former head chef of Fratelli Paradiso in Potts Point leads the kitchen with a menu that serves up Italian breakfast from 7am-12pm followed by a lunch and dinner menu from 12pm-12am. The pastas are made daily at the sister venue, Big Poppa’s and a dedicated pastry chef takes care of the morning pastries.

The wine list begins with upside down map of Sicily with predominantly Italian wines. Soon, they will be adding Australian wines with Italian grapes and moving to more wines by the glass and carafe.

Cocktails & Aperitivi at Caffè Bartolo

The vermouth-driven cocktail list by Grazia Di Franco (ex The Lobo Plantation, PS40) is a work of art. Not only is it presented in an attractive notebook style menu with striking illustrations by Simon O’Corrigan, each drink is designed to evoke a memory or an emotion with the theme of summer running throughout.

Six classic cocktails are given the Caffè Bartolo touch while a dedicated Spritz section with sherry and amaro offers alternatives to Aperol Spritz. For non drinkers, two house non-alcoholic drinks have proved popular with guests.

Caffè Bartolo

Bartolo’s Martini

From the classics, Bartolo’s Martini ($20) begs to be ordered. 78 Degrees gin, marsala secco and Mancino vermouth secco are stirred over ice and poured into into a small shaker over a bucket with ice. It is served with a mini martini glass with a whole caper.

Caffè Bartolo

This two-sip Martini which you refill at your leisure more than pleases Martini aficionados and stays cold until the last drop.

Caffè Bartolo


Sea ($20) combines Manzanilla sherry, Mancino vermouth secco & bianco, verjus and lemongrass over clear ice. It is simply a delicious ode to the delicious vermouth with a hint of salinity. The Sea is the kind of aperitivo you want to sip all day.

Caffè Bartolo


Sunscreen ($20) more than lives up to its name. Have you ever applied mango-scented sunscreen under the hot Australian sun and you wished you could lick it, or eat it? The first sip of rum, cocoa butter, mango and sparkling coconut water combination transports you to that moment and the long hot days on the beach.

Caffè Bartolo


Honeybee ($20) with Bombay gin, beeswax, Calvados, orange blossom honey and verjus is an elegant sipper with summery floral and honey notes and a rich mouthfeel from the beeswax. Sip it on hot afternoons, it’s like drinking the sun.

Food Menu at Caffè Bartolo

The food menu at Caffè Bartolo groups dishes together and is designed to be shared.

Caffè Bartolo

Olive all’ascolana

While enjoying cocktails and deciding on the menu, snack on Olive all’ascolana ($5), tasty bites of fried stuffed olives.  

Caffè Bartolo

Crudo di Ricciola

Raw kingfish is given an Italian touch with semi dried tomatoes, rocket pesto for a peppery note, olive and chilli bread crumb for a touch of heat. Crudo di Ricciola ($24) is fresh and bright, and goes down easily on hot summer evenings.

Caffè Bartolo

Il Polpo

Il Polpo ($23), grilled marinated octopus with salsa all’arabiata, nduja and bronze fennel steals the show. The octopus is cooked sous vide for 5 hours then is nicely charred. It’s tender, succulent and big on flavour with a good measure of heat. And if you happen to be sipping on the Sunscreen cocktail, you’ll notice the soothing effect it has on the palate.

Caffè Bartolo

Tagliolini al Nero di Seppia

Fans of squid ink pasta would savour every mouthful of Tagliolini al Nero di Seppia ($29)l. The house made tagliolini squid ink with spanner crab and yellow tomato sauce is silky and light in texture and simply makes the seafood shine.

Caffè Bartolo

I Rigatoni

The house-made I Rigatoni ($29) with pork belly, ragu amatriciana, chilli oil, pecorino and marjoram may sound like a winter dish but it’s surprisingly light yet filling. It packs a lot of flavour with a touch of heat and goes down well on balmy evenings with a glass of vino. And should the team catch you trying to get what is left of the delicious sauce, they may offer you some bread to mop up the last drops.

Caffè Bartolo

Torta della Nonna

If you still have room for dessert, even to share among two persons, the Torta della Nonna ($12) hits the right spot. Served warm, the baked ricotta tart with sour cherries and pine nuts is not overly sweet and makes a fine finale to the meal.

Caffè Bartolo

Caffè Bartolo hooks you from the first visit. The cocktails are a delightful experience, a flavour sensation that takes you to a happy time and place. The food menu delights in many ways and tempts you to return be it for lunch, breakfast or a morning coffee and pastry on the way to work. Yet the experience wouldn’t be complete without the hospitality, service and recommendations by restaurant manager Roberto Ditto and his knowledgeable team.

Bartolo himself would be proud.

Caffè Bartolo
353-355 Crown St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Open 7 days 7am–12am
Phone: 0455 027 378

Except where indicated, Photography © by Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.