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  • intouch Magazine

Childhood Sweethearts Delivering Authentic Italian Cuisine

For a genuine taste of Italy, and in particular, Rome and Calabria, Novocastrians need go no further than Beaumont Street Islington to Sapori at Tailors. Opened by Romans Fabrizio and Francesca Virgili in January 2021, it is now a firm favourite for locals and anyone looking for the authentic traditions of Italian fare.


Sapori means ‘flavours’ in Italian, and that’s what this rustic restaurant is all about - flavours and traditional cooking that is true to the origins of the recipes handed down through the family. Francesca’s father, Rocco, has been making pizza since he was 12. At the age of 22, he opened his own restaurant with his wife by his side. Many of the recipes used in Sapori have been inherited by Fabrizio and Francesca from Rocco.

The couple were childhood sweethearts who went to school together. Fabrizio would spend lots of time at Francesca’s house, where Rocco taught the young boy everything he knew in the woodfired oven in his home. Unsurprisingly, Francesca and Fabrizio both began their careers working in hospitality and restaurants until one fateful day; they decided to take a holiday to Australia.

They spent 40 days travelling around the country and returned home to Rome in the middle of winter. They decided to return to Australia for one year to learn how to speak English, and they continued to work in hospitality. After the year was up, the COVID pandemic closed the borders, and the couple found themselves in Australia for a longer period than they had expected and still learning English.

With Fabrizio’s great uncle living in Newcastle, the couple were drawn to the city so that they could enjoy having family close. A family friend, Robert ‘Bobby’ Naumov, provided the couple with the opportunity to take over the space where his own family had run businesses over generations. Previously known as The Tailor’s Workshop, it was sitting empty, and the young Romans took it on with great energy and a strong desire to bring traditional Italian fare to Newcastle.

You will not find pizza with BBQ sauce, pineapple or chicken schnitzel on it here, and it’s best not to ask for it.

“We keep to the traditions,” says Francesca. “We really care about that. Every recipe has a story behind it. Carbonara, for example, was a dish made for coal miners – that’s what it means. The pepper in the dish is meant to look like coal dust. And it is not made with cream. We make everything from scratch with the best produce. We import a lot of ingredients from Italy because if we want authentic flavours, we have to. The Italian speck is much less fatty than Australian speck; the salami is spicier or more flavourful. It is all about the flavours.”

Pizzas are made in the Roman style, which is a thinner crust with ingredients right to the edge of the pizza. They offer Le Rosse (tomato base) and Le Bianche (mozzarella base). A customer favourite is a pizza they named after Francesca’s father, Rocco, who invented it. It uses Calabrian flavours because that’s where his family hailed from – spicy Calabrian salami, nduja olives, fried onions, mozzarella, basil and chilli oil. The vegetables used on the pizzas are all pre-prepared with additional flavours. Pasta is handmade every day, as is the tiramisu and connolo. The desserts change regularly, and Francesca makes the gelato at home without an expensive gelato-making machine. She regularly makes pistachio, Nutella, hazelnut and zabaglione, much to the delight of returning customers.

And just as Francesca’s mother worked in Rocco’s restaurant when she was expecting Francesca, history has come full circle, and Francesca has done the same. Now spending most of her time at home with the couple’s young one-year-old daughter, she helps out when she can and often takes her little one into the restaurant in her pouch.

The restaurant is closed Mondays, and has recently opened Tuesdays with a different set menu that will change regularly with no pizza. Sapori at Tailors is located at 10 Beaumont Street, Islington, phone (02) 4962 3110.


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