5 July 2024

By Hannah Wilcox

A new standout in North Sydney’s hospitality scene has opened its doors, offering locals and  food enthusiasts alike the ultimate contemporary Italian dining experience.

At 196 Miller Street, in the recently refurbished 1909 heritage-listed ‘Montrose House’, sits Antica Dining – a luxurious restaurant showcasing regional culinary treasures from the land and sea.

Right across the road from the highly-anticipated Victoria Cross Metro Station, the venue has been brought back to life by owners and operators the Pagano Family and their business partners Joseph Cosentino and Jarrod Hately.

This is Tony, Melissa, Isabella and Alexander Pagano, along with cousins Cosentino and Hately’s, second pursuit following the success of Hatted Italian restaurant Entrata at Glenhaven.

“My parents have always had deep roots in hospitality, from serving customers to serving our family,” Isabella Pagano told the Sun.

“This passion has been passed onto my brother, my cousins and I.”

She continued:  “My mum, Melissa, started the Secret Garden Cafe in Dural (now known as Wildpear) in the early 2000’s.”

“We opened a woodfired pizzeria in Dural called Bel Fiore in 2010, this then expanded to other ventures.”

“We now have placed our focus on Entrata Restaurant & Antica Dining moving forward.”

When asked why the family decided to expand into North Sydney, Melissa Pagano said the spot had always been a stand out for her. 

“Tony and I dined in the building when it was originally L’incontro in the 90s,” she recalled.

“I said to him, I would love to own a restaurant in this building one day.”

The Paganos are also locals to the North Sydney and Crows Nest area.

Isabella added: “We approach every aspect of our restaurant, from food to wine to service with the same passion Italians have for hospitality.”

“It is not just about the food; it is about creating a dining experience that people will remember. We take pleasure in hosting our guests, as much as they will enjoy dining with us.”

The Sun went to try out the exciting new menu and see if the dishes and experience really does offer the ‘same dedication and passion that defines Italian culinary and cultural traditions’.

Firstly, an honorary mention must go to the refurbishment of the building, which underwent three months of renovations in time for Antica’s open day on May 18.

 With a sleek, classy colourway of emerald green, black and white, Montrose House oozes sophistication and luxury. 

The pops of gold in the menus, light fittings and wall hangings complimented the design of the space tremendously – all illuminated by the many windows filtering in direct sunlight.

Outside, the original building has received a much-needed facelift; with a fresh lick of paint, cleaned sandstone and new plants lining the entrance. 

Seated by the window, the Sun tremendously enjoyed the view of McLaren Street’s greenery.

Upon arrival, we decided to delve into the venue’s lengthy drinks menu, ordering the Fields Forever vodka infused with strawberry and lemongrass, ginger syrup, yuzu liqueur, lemon juice, strawberries – and the Cosmopolitan, with vodka, cointreau, cranberry juice, lemon juice.

Both were aesthetically presented with little flower details that complemented the appealing, vibrant colours of the drinks. 

Alcohol to mixer ratio was perfect, making the cocktails an enjoyable addition to the meal.

For the non-drinkers, the Tropical Twist – a mix of white cane spirit, passionfruit, pineapple juice – and the Sunset – with agave blanco spirit, orange juice, raspberry syrup – were up to the same delicious standard.

We selected two starters off the Cichetti menu; mixed marinated olives and a zucchini and pecorino sardo croquettes.

The olives were marinated perfectly in an oil and herb mix, which balanced out the fresh burrata with wilted radicchio, hazelnut, semi dried cherry tomatoes, peach pearls on charred bread we ordered for antipasti. 

‘Melt in your mouth’ was the one phrase that continued to be said throughout the entire sitting. 

This also rang true for the mains; pumpkin, chestnut and ricotta pansotti with burnt sage butter, pine nuts and chestnut and pecorino cream alongside a dish of the guancia di manzo, wagyu beef cheek served with barolo wine, parsnip creme, gremolata and potato crisp.

For an authentic Italian restaurant, Antica did just that. The serving of pasta was impeccable and fulfilling. Along with the heavenly flavour combination of nuts and burnt sage, the pasta itself was cooked to perfection. A classic dish made new.

The same can be said for the beef cheek – a mouth-watering slice of high quality meat was delectable. Cooked perfectly, the potato crisp really added that extra wow factor with its crunch.

Notably, Antica did not drop the ball on the sides. No detail was spared, no flavour lost in the charred broccolini with pecorino and salsa verde, rocket with candied walnuts, pickled golden beetroot, parmesan, lemon dressing and vincotto, rainbow carrots drizzled with honey and aged balsamic and of course shoestring cut fries topped with truffle infused aioli. 

To top it all off we went with the mousse al cioccolato, one of five tempting dessert options. A dark chocolate mousse, served with meringue, white chocolate and berries, it was surprisingly not too rich. The styling of the dish was incredible, with Executive Chef Jomel Santos to be commended.

Chef Santos has worked with the Pagano family across three of their venues since 2015. 

“Our menu offers authentic Italian dishes that honour tradition while embracing modern culinary techniques,” he said of Antica’s offerings – of which were noticeably dietary requirement inclusive. 

One point that cannot be forgotten is the phenomenal service. The staff were kind, attentive and quick, and made the dining experience a standout.

The Sun couldn’t recommend Antica Dining enough with its exquisite food and stunning interiors for your next meal out and about.