Naming a city’s best pizza is asking for a hot slice of contention. For some, pizza ain’t pizza unless the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (the True Neopolitan Pizza Association) says so. In order to qualify for this distinction, pizzas must be made the traditional way. This means the dough is risen for at least eight hours; the tomatoes are San Marzano, which grow on the south side of Mount Vesuvius; and the mozzarella has to be made from the milk of water buffalo raised in Campania and Lazio (read all the rules here). For others, pizza should resemble those slices we’re familiar with from American movies: massive, foldable, with a respectable sheen of grease adorning the top and the stringiest of mozzarella. For others still, pizza is simply a round of possibilities, to be topped with such Italy-defying combinations as prawns and satay, lamb and feta or chicken and bacon. Taking all this into consideration, we sought out Sydney’s finest pizzerias.
Pizza pioneer David Cowdrill’s dearly departed Pizza Mario was the first member of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) in Australia. Now, there are several more, including Cowdrill’s Rosebery restaurant Da Mario, where he continues his good work. The Margherita, with its tender, tasty base and sharp tomato sauce, is faultless, but you can add olives, mushroom or ham as you see fit.
26 Morley Avenue, Rosebery; (02) 9669 2242
Luigi Esposito is a third-generation pizzaiolo who has been making pizza since he was 11 years old. The Neopolitan-bred owner of Via Napoli, which now numbers three outlets across Sydney, eschews the non-traditional in favour of AVPN methods. The ingredients are authentic: San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and type 00 flour for the dough. Speaking of dough, it’s hand-stretched to no larger than 35 centimetres and no thicker than one-third of a centimetre. Esposito bakes the pizzas in a 485-degree oven for between a minute and 90 seconds and ecco! Pizza a Neopolitan would approve of.
141 Longueville Road, Lane Cove; (02) 9428 3297
64-68 Gladesville Road, Hunters Hill; (02) 9428 3297
628 Crown Street, Surry Hills; (02) 9428 3297
Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta
Often there’s a pizza that really jumps out at you on the menu but at beachside Da Orazio, each sounds more delicious than the last. The bases are faultless, having been proofed (this is when the yeast rises) for 48 hours. They’re soft and tender yet have a crisp bite and tasty charring courtesy of the wood-fired oven, and the toppings are perfect in their simplicity. Relish each fior di latte and salami-filled bite of the Ghiottona, or keep it vegetarian with the Caponatina: smoked mozzarella, fior di latte, zucchini, capsicum and eggplant. We do recommend you mix it up, though, with the focaccia. It’s stuffed with porchetta from the rotisserie, with cos lettuce and eggplant to balance the richness.
Da Orazio's Prosciutto pizza. Image via Da Orazio.
75-79 Hall Street, Bondi Beach; (02) 8090 6969
Chef and owner Lucio de Falco of Lucio Pizzeria has solid credentials: not only is he a born-and-raised Neopolitan, but he’s also a member of the AVPN. The menu here sticks to the classics: the Margherita, the capricciosa, the napoletana. De Falco is vehemently against chicken and barbecue sauce on a pizza, so don’t ask. However, there are some delicious deviations on the menu such as the Lucio – this Frankenstein pizza is half Margherita and half calzone stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and ham – the best of both worlds.
248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst; (02) 93323766
2/4 Defries Avenue, Zetland; (02) 9697 3028
There was a collective gasp of horror from certain parts of Sydney when Marco and Daniela Matino announced, in 2012, that their beloved Newtown pizzeria Gigi would be going vegan. How can a pizza exist without cheese? What would add that moreish saltiness to the napoletana if not anchovies? Gigi has answered those questions, pulling hot, fresh pizzas out of the woodfired oven with toppings such as grilled eggplant, sweet cherry tomatoes, cauliflower puree and rosemary and black truffle puree. The queues continue to snake down King Street nightly as in the days of dairy.
379 King Street, Newtown; (02) 9557 2224
In the wake of Gigi’s vegan announcement came the perfect balm to a carnivore-pizza-obsessive's soul: Rosso Antico. Italian right down to the cheerful Neopolitan waitstaff, this Enmore pizzeria asks no difficult ethical questions, it merely pulls mozzarella-draped pizza out of the wood-fired oven and places them on the enormous tins of San Marzano tomatoes set on your table for that purpose. Rosso Antico serves all the usual suspects along with some innovations such as the Friarelli: fior di latte, wild broccoli, Italian sausage and chilli – and it does a very respectable Aperol spritz, too.
2/52-60 Enmore Road, Enmore; (02) 8065 4224
Leichhardt may have the Italian Forum, but the true Italian heart of Sydney beats in Haberfield, and La Disfida is one of its most popular neighbourhood restaurants. The pizzas have a thin crust, which becomes deliciously crisp in the wood-fired oven. The toppings take inspiration from all over Italy – think Ligurian olives, prosciutto from Emilia-Romagna and wild mushrooms.
109 Ramsay Street, Haberfield; (02) 9798 8299
Walk down any New York street and you’re sure to bypass a pizza joint with a crowd of customers outside, eating on their feet. This kind of walk-while-you-eat pizza consumption is impossible with an Italian-style pizza: too sloppy, too messy. That’s where Epic Pizza comes in. The pizzas are a monstrous 55 centimetres across and they can be bought by the slice. The dough is risen for 24 hours before the toppings are added; that’s when things get real. New York has never seen the likes of this: Lambageddon is lamb with hummus, mozzarella, peas, caraway seeds and coleslaw; while the Notorious P.I.G. has a barbecue sauce base with mozzarella, bacon, pork sausage, jalapenos and onion. Bag yourself a slice, fold it in half and go for it.
310 Crown Street, Darlinghurst; (02) 9360 0031
Representing for Norton Street is Aperitivo, Leichhardt’s only AVPN-accredited pizzeria. The restaurant/bar is dimly lit and inviting – and the scent of fresh pizza doesn’t hurt, either. Each pizza is topped with sweet San Marzano tomato sauce and fior di latte or buffalo mozzarella from Campania. Beyond that, the menu offers variations: the Diavoletto adds ricotta and hot salami while the Salsiccia is topped with Italian sausage, taleggio, porcini mushrooms, radicchio and truffle oil.
Why choose when the Four Seasons offers four delicious combinations? Image via Aperitivo.
163 Norton Street, Leichhardt; (02) 9564 0003
Vacanza means “holiday” in Italian, though it wasn’t exactly a holiday for owner Nick Gilbert when he travelled to Italy to learn how to make real pizza. He spent months mastering the art of the pizzaiolo before returning to Sydney to show off his knowledge at Vacanza. The Brandi Bufalina Margherita is Gilbert’s ode to the south of Italy – take a bite and head off on a journey. Oh, and on Tuesdays, you can score a Margherita and a glass of wine for $22.
261 Bronte Road, Waverley; 0432 055 987
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This Balmain mainstay bases its pizza on styles not from Naples but from Bologna, the capital city of Emilia-Romagna. The region is the home of Parmgiano reggiano, balsamic vinegar and some of the finest cured meats in the world such as Parma ham and mortadella – it's known as La Grassa (the Fat One) because of its excellent food. The dough at Rosso Pomodoro is made from stoneground whole wheat and it’s proofed for a whopping 72 hours: fast food this is not. It’s thanks to the flour and the rising process that the bases at Rosso Pomodoro are light and easily digestible – which means diners at Rosso Pomodoro don’t depart feeling “grassa”.
20-24 Buchanan Street, Balmain; (02) 9555 5924
Wildcard alert! Manoosh, as you can probably tell from the name, is not Italian. Rather, it’s Lebanese and specialises in Lebanese-style pizzas. If all this San Marzano and fior di latte is beyond you, perhaps you might like to try the Garlic Chicken pizza: chicken, cheese, mushroom, fresh tomato, olives, oregano and most importantly: copious amounts of garlic sauce.
170 Enmore Road, Enmore; (02) 9550 6606