Itō, is a peek into the culinary future – and Ortolani beat everyone to the punch

Surry Hills, has sprouted another culinary gem, reshaping the dining scene one restaurant at a time.

Enter Itō, a modern Japanese Izakaya brought to life by the culinary wizardry of Head Chef Erik Ortolani and the visionary ESCA Co-Founder Ibrahim Moubadder.

These two have already left an indelible mark on Sydney’s gastronomic landscape with their previous ventures.


Nestled snugly on Crown Street, Itō breathes fresh air into a space once occupied by the beloved Cuckoo Callay – in case you didn’t know, this little gem was actually apart of the ESCA family.

Erik Ortolani, a seasoned maestro in the kitchen, exudes a total ‘Bear‘ vibe  -and by that we mean the TV show we cannot get enough of – he’s passionate, a lil moody in an introverted way, and freaking cool. He’s delivered a menu that’s as inventive as it is mind-blowing.

Picture Italian flair mingling with Japanese finesse—seriously, who would’ve thunk it? But you won’t truly get it until you taste it. It defies easy description; it’s like a sneak peek into the culinary future – and Ortolani beat everyone to the punch.


Ortolani skillfully weaves his Italian heritage with an unbridled passion for Japanese cuisine, resulting in a menu that’s a stunning fusion of both worlds. Think yellowfin tuna on bonito bread, adorned with shaved bottarga, or Wagyu mafaldine paired with white shimeji and miso.

These dishes are a journey of flavours that defy borders. And vegetarians, vegans, GF’s? They have got your back big time, no one misses out here baby! Because they care as much as Faith No More cares ‘We Care A Lot’ rings in my head… because despite their obvious elegance, take note – ACE place to woo, to show you care, its intimate, perfect for 2, 4’s, 6’s or more, its that perfect, but there’s also something a little punk or new wave about the kitchen, because its that inventive, and its that original.

The term ‘Izakaya’ itself, when translated from Kanji, means ‘stay-drink-place’, and that’s exactly the vibe Itō exudes. It’s more than a mere eatery; it’s an experience that revels in both the social and the gourmet.


The drinks menu at Itō is a carefully chosen array of Japanese-inspired classics, complemented by wines from Japan and Italy, along with an extensive selection of sake. Crafted to harmonise with the distinct flavours of the food and the timeless ambiance of the venue, it caters to both the refined palate and the casual sipper. Mark Anderson, the Group Bar Manager at ESCA Group, has put together a selection that’s elegant, diverse, and thoroughly satisfying. The sake, sourced from Melbourne, is an absolute knockout.


And when it comes to post-meal indulgence, an Old Fashioned is just the ticket—did we forget to mention the dessert – it is to die for, almost too beautiful to put into words.

itu dessert

Architect Matt Darwon’s touch is evident all around Itō’s space. Clean lines, custom-made Tasmanian blackwood furnishings, and bursts of vibrant colour come together to create an aesthetic that’s simultaneously modern and inviting.

The architectural redesign emphasizes flexibility and engagement, seamlessly integrating the interior with the exterior and the two internal levels.

itu fine dining surry hills

Itō stands tall, not just as a testament to culinary finesse, but also as a testament to the power of reinvention and revitalization. It’s a culinary adventure that encourages the community to rediscover the joy of coming together and celebrating, all centered around exceptional food. Surry Hills has seen its dining scene evolve over the years, and Itō stands as the latest exciting chapter in this ongoing story.

In the heart of Surry Hills, Itō proudly leads the way as the epicenter of a culinary revolution. Props go out to the amazing and attentive crew. With its fusion of tradition and innovation, it sets a fresh standard for dining in this bustling Sydney neighborhood.

Stay connected to Itō, a modern Japanese Izakaya via Instagram.

Photos Jiwon Kim