‘We want to empower people to create something at home that’s at least as delicious as what they would get in a restaurant,’ says Matt Swieboda. ‘It’s really good for the soul, you know?’ He’s referring to the new Sydney-based pasta, deli and wine shop Fabbrica, which Matt and his partners Nate Hatwell, Scott McComas-Williams and Cameron Birt opened in October 2020 – the result of creative brainstorming during Sydney’s first Covid-19 lockdown.
Back then, their existing food-and-drink businesses – Dear Sainte Éloise (@dearsainteeloise), Love, Tilly Devine (@lovetillydevine) and the Italian restaurant Ragazzi (@ragazziwinepasta) – all faced big challenges, particularly footfall. ‘Sydney’s central business district doesn’t have a very dense urban residential population. It really only exists as a workplace or a retail site,’ Matt says. ‘As our highest-revenue business bottomed out, we very, very quickly realised that, if we were going to survive this year, we needed to find alternative revenue streams.’
One of those ideas was selling the fresh pasta and sauces they served at the restaurant for customers to cook at home. Within weeks, they were selling in more than a dozen retailers around the metropolitan area. It worked so well, in fact, that when lockdown lifted, they realised the idea might safeguard them from the next pandemic – or at least Covid’s next wave.
Soon enough, an investor aligned with one of Australia’s best food distributors approached them with the option of taking a commercial kitchen in the suburbs to help fuel their pasta idea. ‘It probably would have been the most sensible decision,’ Matt says. ‘But for us, it didn’t seem very interesting.’ Instead, they opted for a premium retail site in one of Sydney’s most expensive areas – below Acne Studios, next to Hermès, across the street from Rolex – and called it Fabbrica, meaning ‘factory’ in Italian.
Fabbrica doubles as both a shop and a commercial kitchen. In the back, through a large glass window, customers can watch the team extruding and hand-rolling pasta, baking focaccia, cooking sauces, and breaking down whole pigs. The retail space in front, meanwhile, sells minimal-intervention wines, dry goods, cheese, eggs and seasonal vegetables grown by small farmers in the state. And then, of course, there’s the pasta.
With Scott, Ragazzi’s executive chef, running point, the fresh pasta at Fabbrica is the star (see his favourite pasta shapes, right). It’s kept in a stone-and-glass case that Matt likens to a jewellery counter, where visitors can see the different shapes created daily and choose what they like. It’s then weighed up and sold by the gram.
Fabbrica also functions as a centralised hub for its owners’ other locations. Pork and other ingredients are sent to the restaurants as needed, and the team show customers what they can buy to replicate the specific dishes offered in the restaurants – recipe cards included. ‘It’s this full-circle idea that there is very little wastage and everything we do feeds into everything else that we do with the other businesses,’ Matt says. ‘It’s a really fun idea. And we don’t think it’s anything that’s been widely achieved anywhere else in the world.’
Fabbrica’s executive chef Scott McComas-Williams shares his top five pasta shapes – and why he loves them.
‘We always have rigatoni. “Rigati” means ridged, so “rigatoni” is a ridged pasta. When you cook fresh rigatoni – we put egg through it – it gets that beautiful bite from the egg and it’s so good. It takes like two and a half minutes to cook. You get the ridges from the bronze die that we use to extrude it, catching all the sauce.’
‘Spaghetti cacio e pepe at Ragazzi is one of the only dishes that’s been on the menu since day one. We sell the sauce ready to go at Fabbrica, plus guanciale and eggs for carbonara. For how common the shape is, it’s a bit underappreciated; it’s a beautiful thing. It’s bronze-die extruded, so it’s got those little ridges to catch your cheese and pepper. There’s always a place for spaghetti on my menu. It’s a fucking good noodle.’
‘This is one of my all-time favourites. It’s from Naples and it’s a [relatively] young shape. It was named after the King of Naples’ daughter, Mafalda – the other name is “reginette”, or “little queen”. It’s a versatile shape – you can do it with a lot of different sauces, ragùs, or any chunky seafood. We do it with fermented chilli and cuttlefish, and corn and prawn – or shrimp and grits.’
‘This is a shape from Piedmont – it’s basically tagliatelle. It’s an egg-yolk-enriched dough, so it’s pure 00 flour and a fuckload of egg yolk. We do that with truffles from Italy. You basically just toss the tajarin through some butter, a little bit of pasta water, salt, pepper, a little bit of reggiano and truffles – and that’s it. And it’s incredible.’
‘This is a Tuscan hand-rolled noodle and one of my favourites. If you gave a kid a ball of dough and were like, “Make a noodle,” this is how they would do it. There’s regional variations on how thick, thin, long or short it should be, but we tend to make a pretty thick and chewy version, really working that gluten before we roll it. We recommend that with any ragù – anything with a bit of chunk or heft, fatty or buttery.
This article was first published in Courier issue 39, February/March 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.