Da Mario

Terry Durack
Da Mario's industrial setting has been given an Italian touch.
Da Mario's industrial setting has been given an Italian touch. Photo: Steven Siewert

36 Morley Avenue Rosebery, New South Wales 2018

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02 9669 2242
Opening hours Tues-Sun noon-3pm, 5-10pm
Features Licensed, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard

We live in a world where Domino's sells one million pizzas every single day. You get to choose your own crust - thin 'n' crispy, classic or deep pan - and toppings that run from chicken and feta to cheesy bacon Hawaiian. Want to add pineapple to that for another $2? You're welcome, have a nice day.

Then there's the new Da Mario pizzeria in Rosebery, David and Marcelo Cowdrill's long-awaited sequel to Mario's much-awarded pizzeria in Surry Hills, whose menu clearly states ''no variations''. No, you can't have anchovies on your gorgonzola and radicchio pizza. "You just don't mix two different things," says Marcelo. "It's too conflicting."

As a devout follower of the rules of pizza - making as laid down by Italy's Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana - Da Mario is not the place for ''designa'' pizza. The associazione insists the dough be made from doppio zero flour, and measure 0.4cm thick in the middle, and 1 to 2cm at the crust. The pizza should be cooked in a wood-fired oven at 485C for 60 to 90 seconds, and the base should have the flavour and aroma of "well-prepared, baked bread" and be "soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold".

Go-to dish: Pizza Margherita Extra (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil).
Go-to dish: Pizza Margherita Extra (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil). Photo: Steven Siewert

Given the ''no variations'' theme, the pizza menu is surprisingly long, from a delicate potato, sea salt and rosemary to tuna, mozzarella and olives. Margherita con ruchetta e crudo ($24) is based on the Napoletana classic; the clean, crisp and smoky base topped with fresh rocket and prosciutto. Yes, it smells of freshly baked bread and yes, it can easily be manipulated to be eaten "a libretto", folded like a book.

Incapable of ordering pizza without anchovy, I add a Partenopea, topped with tomato, mozza, anchovies, olives, capers and oregano ($20). Again, the crust is risen, puffy and slightly charred, fragrant with wood-ash.

The Cowdrills have gently Italianised this semi-industrial space, part of the former Rosella cannery that, at the other end, houses Kitchen by Mike. It's reminiscent of its near neighbour with its distressed brick walls, stripped-back ceiling, poured floor and piled-up firewood, but the heart of the place is its hearth; a mighty three-tonne, Vespa-red pizza oven, tended by pizzaiolo Simone Rech. A long, sleek bar, hanging ferns, and generous decking lined with umbrellas make it an easy, cosmopolitan sort of place to hang out, day or night.

The wine list is limited, but pizza-friendly, and most of the Aussie and Italian all-rounders are under $50, including a refreshing, floral-scented A Mano Fiano Greco from Puglia ($8.50/$45).

There are things other than pizza. Olive Ascolana ($9), fat green olives stuffed with finely ground meat, crumbed and deep fried in the Marchigiani style, are a pop-in-the-mouth treat. Match an aperitivo to gamberetti ($12), deep-fried Hawkesbury River school prawns that need only a quick squeeze of fresh lemon, or share an affettato misto ($21), the big, marbled flaps of fresh-tasting wagyu bresaola particularly good with the giardiniera pickles.

Daily specials run from grilled swordfish with fennel and caper salsa ($22) to a rigorously al dente bigoli pasta with duck ragu ($24), made by head chef Franco Bortignon on an ancient hand-operated pasta press that belonged to his grandmother. Salads are simple - if it says buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil ($14), that's what you get. Desserts are smartened-up classics, although a hazelnut semifreddo dusted with parmesan-like white chocolate ($12) is pretty much frozen solid.

But you're really here for the hand-made beauty of the pizza. Sydney is well-served with pizza at every level, from small-scale and stubbornly traditional, to ''designa'' pizzas delivered to your door. That's the real choice, and we're lucky to have it.

THE LOW-DOWN

Best bit: The pizza, dummy.
Worst bit:
The parking.
Go-to dish:
Pizza Margherita Extra (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil), $25.