Braci Osteria and Pizzeria: Bringing some Italian style to the leafy north shore of Sydney

Chris & Toby

Story by drinks writer, Jono Carr

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Shop 5/183-191 High St, North Willoughby

Shop 5/183-191 High St, North Willoughby

Braci is a family-friendly neighbourhood venue concept developed by Toby Robinson and his long-time friend, Chris Carlei uniting Italian spuntini, handmade pizzas with a focus on great wine and weekly rotating cocktails. It’s the first foray into ownership for Toby and Chris which opened in North Willoughby late last year.


Growing up nearby, Toby had a solid idea of what the area lacked and the locals told him what they wanted too. “I spent a lot of time in the area while setting up Braci. The locals weren’t shy about telling me what they wanted for the site,” says Robinson. “’Wine and cocktails, please!’”

Toby cut his teeth in hospitality working at The Star, going on to be part of the opening teams of Firedoor, Bistecca, and The Gidley. It took a global pandemic and a hospitality-wide lockdown for Robinson to realise that he was ready for his very own project. Robinson’s business partner, Chris Carlei, relocated from Melbourne to bring Braci’s menu to life. A pizzaiolo by trade, Carlei learned his craft from his mother at his parent’s winery, Carlei Estate in the Cardinia Ranges.

“There are so many fantastic Australian distillers producing top-quality spirits, and we like to encourage our guests to drink local, even if they are in an “Italian” restaurant.”

Braci’s beverage offering features local producers and high-quality imports. Having access to back vintages selection of Carlei Estate Wines allows them to house pour some amazing drops like a 2012 Riesling out of the Tamar Valley and 2010 Pinot Noir from the Cardinia Ranges.

The back bar intentionally focuses on Australian spirits, with a healthy addition of Italian Amari. “We are sourcing local ingredients to create food that has a heavy Italian influence, so our approach with the back bar is very much the same,” says Robinson.
Cocktail wise, Toby uses his strong love of culinary techniques to create an ever-rotating list of fresh tipples saying that he will go to the local fruit and veg market and pick up whatever is in season and create new drinks with that. Taking classic Italian aperitifs and using Aussie products to keep it local such as the neighbouring Finder’s Distillery of St. Leonards, and Australian favourites like Four Pillars, Brix, Brookies and Marionette.

Chris has experimented with a dough recipe that has passed down through his family after many trials creating a dough unique to Braci saying it is light and charred to perfection, with a long ferment packing it with flavour. The spuntini, perfect snack-sized accompaniments to the pizza, work on the principle of elegant simplicity.
“Our philosophy with food is simple, less is more,” adds Chris “and the quality of those ingredients is absolutely paramount.”

Robinson believes that there doesn’t always have to be an excuse to eat and drink well suggesting the restaurant is for all occasions, whether it be for a cheeky glass of wine on the way home from work, or for a catch up with friends.

“Food should always be an occasion in itself as it can hold so many fond memories,” says Robinson, “Pizza is not a selfish affair and its sharing nature can create beautiful moments between family and friends. We want our guests to eat well and eat often!”

The bar is open from 3.30pm on Wednesday to Friday, with the kitchen firing up from 5.30pm. The venue is open for lunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday with service kicking off at 12pm.