We scoured the city to find Sydney's top pizza restaurants
Throwing all carb-caution to the wind, Time Out Sydney has gone on an eating rampage through Sydney's pizza restaurants to track down the city's decadent dozen. You're welcome. Now get thee to a pizzeria!
Order the Zucchini and ricotta The winner of Time Out’s Best Bang for Buck at the 2013 Food Awards continues to knock Sydney for six with its beautiful warehouse design, excellent gelato (we can’t get enough of the pavlova flavour sandwiched between a couple of cookies) and, of course, the pizza. This is Khan Dannis and Catherine Adams’ restaurant. The two chefs left Rockpool late last year to start their own place after being inspired by a trip to chef Gabriel Bonci’s casual little shopfront, Pizzerium, in Rome. Don’t expect roaring Italian stallions slinging massive rounds of cheese-laden pizza or any dough spinning in the air at Cipro. It’s a little more Alexandria-via-Roma here. That means big, square slabs of pizza covered in anything from meatballs to pork ragu to thin shavings of zucchini, blobs of creamy, light ricotta and a scattering of fresh mint. All that along with brilliant service from restaurant manager Penny Watson-Green? Colour us sold.
Order the Salamino Die-hard Pizza Mario fans, breathe a sigh of relief: David Cowdrill’s spinoff restaurant, Da Mario, is serving the Salamino. If you’ve had the cheese-and-sausage pizza before, you know why this is the best news you've heard this month; if you haven’t, allow us to explain. The Salamino is your mouth’s new best friend: a thin, charred base all covered in melted mozzarella and big puddles of ricotta and spiced up with crisp curls of salami. It's soft and rich and runny and crunchy and salty and sweet and if you're anything like us, you'll fight like a fiend over the last piece – and then you'll order a second serve.
Order the Caponatina This is a menu you’ll want to eat all of, either in one sitting with ten friends or ten sittings with one. Here they have a pizze list where each is better looking than the last. And they really are excellent, the bases are that magic mix of soft yet charred and blackened, beautifully seasoned and smoky.The reginella is Orazio’s ode to the Margherita: tomato, fior di latte and basil leaves – it's fresh, light and simple. But it might be the caponatina that thrills us most. Here, fior di latte is melted over the bottom with a fresh, slightly acidic relish of zucchini, capsicum, eggplant and tomato. The zinger here is the crumbly chunks of raw cheese that pop with every bite.
Order the Napoli This South King Street pizzeria is doing things by the book, and by that we mean by the incredibly specific regulations from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, who are responsible for making sure pizze are hand-kneaded, traditionally topped and wood-fired, Napoli-style. There’s a good inch of flame-kissed crust that provides the structural integrity to your slice, while the centre remains soft enough that if you wanted to fold the whole thing up in quarters and eat it like a quadruple-decker sandwich, you could. The gamberi e rucola (prawn and rocket) is a cheese-free pizza of rosy prawns, cherry tomatoes, chilli and parsley, all hidden under a crown of peppery rocket leaves. The Napoli is a mozzarella-topped flavour frisbee sporting whole anchovies, black olives, garlic, oregano and cherry tomatoes. Gigi is a sizeable joint and it’s within dangerously short walking distance of Earl’s Juke Joint, the Townie and the Midnight Special. Head here for a meal first or come late in the night to get back on track after a few too many instead-of-dinner beverages.
Order the Lucio Here’s a fun fact: the shape you make when you fold a piece of pizza in half to eat it is called a libretto. Yup, just like in the opera. And you know you’re eating a good pizza when you can fold with ease. At Lucio, the tiny little courtyard pizzeria in Darlo you can fold the hell out of your Napoletana. It’s all salt, brine and tomato with its mix of anchovies, capers and olives on a tomato base. And cheese-free to boot. The list here is strictly classical (your Margheritas, your marinaras, your diavolas), though there are a couple of house specialties, such as the Lucio. Named for chef and owner Lucio de Falco, the Lucio is about the only acceptable half-and-half in town (except maybe the two-metre-long pizza with five toppings at Via Napoli). It’s half a regular Margherita – thin-based yet puffy and charred on the sides – and half a ham-and-ricotta calzone. Can we get a mamma mia? Service here is a little on the brusque side and they have no patience for dithering, but once you’ve ordered the food comes out hot, fast and delicious.
Order the Margherita con bresaola If Lady and the Tramp taught us nothing else it’s that sharing Italian food by candlelight is how you do romance. When date night rolls around, a table for two under the hanging ferns at Pizza Mario is where you’ll find us, making short work of the pizze and a half-litre carafe of the house red. We embrace with open arms the Italian love of multiple cheeses in a single dish with open arms, especially when it is the combination of mozzarella, ricotta and pecorino on a pancetta pizza with fresh tomato and thyme. Let the little rocket leaves on the Margherita with bresaola (controversial extra beef!) trick your brain into the smug salad zone – while it’s distracted you get to demolish this grand pizza topped with salty discs of wine-red dried beef and shaved parmesan hidden underneath. They are still keeping things casual at Mario (new joint Da Mario is fancier). Green-and-white checked paper tablecloths, a huge blackboard and a feature wall of logs framing the kitchen is about all the decoration they have space for. The rest is given over to the big glass walls that look out into the windy courtyard of St Margarets. The service may be a little gruff at times, but we’ll take it if it means getting another crack at that bresaola number.
Order the Speck e funghi trifolati These aren’t the can’t-get-it-through-the-doorway pizze of your American dreams – here they fit neatly on the plate, and there’s no need for a wire stand to get everything on the table. The piccantosa is maximum flavour for minimum fuss. It’s a pantry-friendly riff on a Margherita – when the basil plant is hibernating just swirl some pesto over the top, add some chilli and you’re good to go. The speck e funghi trifolati takes care of the toppings the piccantosa forgot. Mixed mushrooms are enmeshed in a cheesy web of mozzarella and then dressed in thin, gauzy strips of prosciutto. With a whole lot of people not down with gluten these days pizza can be a tricky sell, but Pompei’s also do pizza bases made from brown rice, millet and potato flour so it’s an all-in pizza party. When you’re eating near the beach there’s something about food you can eat with your hands that completes the Australian summer tableau. And pizza chased with a scoop of white-peach gelato from Pompei’s fits the bill perfectly.
Order the Donzelletta We’re more than a little in love with Popolo. From their excellent Italian wine and beer selection to the personable service (love your work, Fabio Dore and Flavio Carnivale!) to Negronis and slices of cured ham at the bar, we can’t get enough. They even do weekend breakfasts. But right now we’re all about the pizza. You might try pizze such as their principessa – a luxed-up Margherita with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil. The donzelletta is a monster of cow’s-milk mozzarella, thin slices of golden potato, sausage and ricotta. You might want to come armed with a fistful of Lipitor for that one. Bases come pliable and bubbly, ready to be folded like paper planes – destination, your maw.
Order the Pizza bianco This tiny little shop is a loud and local slice of White Bay, offering traditional pizza from (gasp!) an electric oven. They’ve got some pretty strict rules here. Try ordering a ham-and-pineapple or a half-and-half and you’ll be laughed out of Balmain. But there’s no need for a Tropicana when you’ve got a Margherita. As much as we always enjoy that classic of tomato, Italian buffalo mozzarella and basil, it’s Rosso Pomodoro’s pizza bianco – potato, Italian sausage and rosemary – that gets our vote. The pizza base is charred and bubbly, yet soft and yielding. The sausage is broken into little chunks, flavouring the thin, starchy slices of potato, all perfumed by the rosemary. This is a real local’s haunt. Inner Westies wander in and out for takeaway or load in for a table, grabbing bottles of red from the bottle-o next door. Still standing when the plates have been cleared? Then finish yourself off with a Nutella calzone laden with crunchy, toasted almonds.
Order the Calabrese Pyrmont residents (Pyrmontese?) keen for some Italian action can throw their hands in the air with the arrival of Tappo. The sister restaurant to Haberfield’s La Disfida offers some damn fine pizza along with an impressive collection of Italian craft beers. Take a seat on the balcony and order the Calabrese. It’s a rich and mouth-searing mix of n’duja (that hella spicy Calabrian pork paste Sydney’s come to know and love), cimi de rapa (turnip tops, or, as we like to think of it, the super-food of the pizza world), and plenty of garlic and chilli oil, all on a thin yet soft and puffy base. Phwoar. Or do the Margherita challenge. Their DOP version (with mozzarella di buffala rather than fior di latte) can more than hold its own against both Via Napoli’s or Vacanza’s. You might even consider chasing your slice with Tappo’s chocolate mousse and its salted-caramel interior, covered in shards of honeycomb. That’s amore.
Order the Brandi The lights are low, the chatter is jovial and the pizza is excellent at the Surry Hills arm of Bronte’s favourite pizza parlour. Take a moment at the door to pay your respects to the fallen Hopetoun Hotel – its dark spectre looms just across the street from Vacanza – and then turn your mind to brighter things, like the fact that this place has its own buffalo mozzarella bar. You can get imported mozzarella or burrata straight up, or upgrade your pizza with Campania Garofalo buffalo mozzarella for a fiver. They have eight pizze on the menu that can be ordered bianchi (white) or rosso (red). The Brandi is as rigid as a military guard when it comes to following the rules for an AVPN-approved Margherita: six orbs of DOP cheese, a vermillion tomato base and four fresh basil leaves on top. The careful layout looks like an edible quilt piece, and straight out of the oven the bases here stay firm all the way to the centre. They adhere pretty strictly to the less-is-more philosophy: there’s no room for grandstanding from any one ingredient and tiger prawns (one per slice), chilli, cherry tomatoes and fior di latte cheese are all applied with a steady, measured hand. Bourke Street always makes for great people-watching, but at Vacanza the best seats in the house are the ones where you can watch the pizza being made.
Order the Via Napoli Salsicce e friarielli Here comes fun. And we mean it. Never has Lane Cove seemed like a more attractive place to take a long Friday lunch. The communal tables outside are absolutely heaving with punters. Inside, the huge wood-fired pizza ovens are getting a thorough workout as the burly-armed pizzaioli push huge wooden paddles laden with pizza in and out. It’s a rambunctious, tight squeeze where everyone working here seems genuinely stoked to see you and very happy to have a flirt (oh, stop!). And then: it’s game on. Because it’s here that you can eat a two-metre-long pizza. That’s the equivalent of just under two Kylie Minogues, toe-to-toe. It’s also about eight Minogues worth of lunch. Go for a metre-long pizza with your choice of toppings if you’re not feeling quite as ambitious. We go for the requisite Margherita for a bit of benchmarking, a salsicce e friarielli (sausage and broccoli rabe to you), and the spicy, salami-laden diavola. The dough’s the thing at Via Napoli – all puffy, charred, smoky, soft and light. Coming for dinner? The crew have just opened a prosciutteria, so stop by for a little pre-dinner ham sometime.
Order the Caramelized It was never a question of “Why open a restaurant at Salt Meats Cheese?” as much as “Why the hell wouldn’t you?” The warehouse-cum-providore has long been providing Sydney with some of its finest salumi, and now they’ve shipped over an oven from Naples to provide us with some of the best pizza in town. Shabby-chic wooden tables and chairs have been brought along, and the whole place transforms into a lovely restaurant come nightfall. But to the pizza. The simplicity of a Margherita cannot be overlooked, but we love the ‘Caramelised’: their version of a salami pizza. There’s a thick, melting layer of scamorza affumicata (like a smoked mozzarella) with sweet, caramelised onions and – placed on after the pizza comes out the oven – big rounds of fennel salami. The crust is tall, soft and bouncy, with a char and crackle that attests to the elegance of the dough. It’s smoky from the cheese, herbaceous from the sausage and, like everything on this menu, a celebration of great produce (which is Salt Meats Cheese’s shtick after all). Real love has gone into making this, and real love will go into eating it.