The best pizzas in Sydney
Hell's Bells pizza at Coogee Pavilion. Photo: Nic Walker
Pizza's been getting a bad rap this year, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. We started 2015 with Pizza Hut's Vegemite-infused crust pizza, an abomination that they managed to top in May, collaborating with Four'N Twenty and unleashing the "meat pie pizza" nightmare to the public.
Refusing to let Pizza Hut stand alone in their war against good pizza, McCain started selling "Pizza Toasties" last month, a vaguely pizza-related treat for the truly lazy – all you need to do is take one out of the freezer, nuke it in the microwave, crisp it up in the toaster and voila: you never need to leave the house again.
If these products, advertised on the sides of buses and written about by websites as "you won't believe what they've gone and done now" clickbait, were your only insight to Sydney's relationship with pizza in 2015, you'd think things were pretty dire. But the fact is that pizza in Sydney has never been better; we've a wealth of pizzerias serving up slices almost as good as those you'd find in Naples.
Vinnie's Pizza at Coogee Pavilion. Photo: Nic Walker
A quick "best pizza in Sydney" Google will bring up a handful of top 10s featuring the same six most famous pizzerias popping up over and over, and deservedly so: you can (and absolutely should) eat pizza by the circle at Da Mario, by the rectangle at Cipro Pizza al Taglio and by the metre at Via Napoli.
There are hundreds of pizza joints in Sydney, and every single one of them is someone's favourite. So what do you do once you've eaten at every single pizzeria on the Good Food Guide's best pizza list (see below)? Do you go back and eat through that list again? Or do you keep exploring the new, in the hope of discovering the great unsung slice?
For a whole fortnight I did the latter; 14 consecutive days of pizza for lunch, pizza for dinner and, sometimes, cold pizza for breakfast. Giving up my non-existent strict paleo diet, I chomped my way through 40 different pizzas from 18 different places, travelling hundreds of kilometres by car, train and foot. I snuck into a Hillsong convention just to eat at a pizza truck (totally worth it) and journeyed from Westfield to Westfield in the hopes of finding Pompeii's Pizza Gio pizza vending machine (at the time of print, the machine isn't operating anywhere. I may never find out what pizza that's cooked by a robot tastes like).
The metre-long pizza at Via Napoli. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Two weeks of pizza devouring will get you more than just an impressive paunch and permanent heartburn, you'll also obtain the sweet knowledge that almost every Sydney resident is about 10 minutes away from pizza perfection. There's no excuse to get the hots for what's in the box with the dots any more, check out these places instead.
Anema e Core
The diavoletta from De Orazio Pizza and Porchetta. Photo: Jennifer Soo
When you think "pizza by the metre" you immediately think of Via Napoli in Lane Cove (or their newer location in Hunter's Hill), but next time you inevitably think of the biggest size pizza available, think of Anema e Core in Meadowbank, a restaurant that's taken over the entire sidewalk surrounding Meadowbank station.
When I go to Via Napoli I can't order anything besides a metre of their margherita, which is about as good as pizza gets. At Anema e Core I feel free to explore their menu in greater deal, topping my metre of pizza with hot salami, friarielli and smoked mozzarella. Or you could simply order the pizza named after the restaurant. The description of the Anema e Core pizza is the "Christian Fantasy". Christian is the name of the head chef, and the pizza is topped with whatever he feels like on that day.
Anema e Core Pizzeria, 62 Constitution Road, Meadowbank, (02) 9809 5555
Wanna go somewhere fancy to smear your face with pizza sauce and cheese grease? Candelori's is the 15-year-old height of luxury on an unassuming street in Smithfield, where you could be one of the 600 who dine there on a Saturday evening, or have an entire 220-capacity restaurant to yourself on a Monday night.
You can fill your white tablecloth with one of more than 100 dishes on the menu – 10 of which are pizzas, cooked in the impressive woodfired oven. Be sure to order a salsiccie e cime di rapa pizza, which balances fatty pork sausage with bitter Italian broccoli and is only slightly let down by an overuse of semolina in the rolling process. It's only the kind of thing you pick up on after eating pizza every day for half a month, so you'll probably be fine.
Candelori's Ristorante e Bar, 685 The Horsley Drive, Smithfield, (02) 9729 1155
The best thing about this multi-million dollar Merivale monster isn't the cocktails, the sushi, the flower market or even the ping pong tables. It's the pizza that emerges from the dome in the heart of the downstairs dining room. The best seats in the house are the ones surrounding the oven, where you can watch the chefs at work, something more pizza joints should offer.
Coogee Pavilion also offers Sydney's hottest pizza – a combination of spicy calabrese sausage and habanero peppers called 'Hell's Bells' that comes with the disapproval of the chef who claims that's it's way too spicy for him. It's not that life-ending, but stay safe and order a patate e salsiccia on the side. Smoked buffalo mozzarella teams up with roasted potatoes, rosemary and Italian sausage to create one of Sydney's best pizzas. This will be a pizzeria that'll soon be on everyone's top 10 lists, plus you can get a haircut while you eat it.
Coogee Pavilion, 169 Dolphin Street, Coogee, (02) 9240 3000
Haberfield is Sydney's original pizza town, although it's recently faced stiff competition from Summer Hill, where the main street features three woodfired pizzerias (in order of greatness: Da Vinci's, Maranello's and Mancini's) as well as a manoush store (Summer Bake). Haberfield is home to the 20-year-old pizzeria Napoli in Bocca, Italian restaurant Pappardelle and pizzeria come enoteca, La Disfida.
Where the majority of Sydney's traditional Italian pizzerias favour the extra-glutinous, ever-chewy crust, La Disfida has kept its pizzas thin and crispy, topped with generous slices of buffalo mozzarella. It's easier to eat an entire pizza by yourself (and then some) at La Disfida, especially if you're an anchovy fan – the salty little fish feature on almost half the pizzas on the menu.
La Disfida, 109 Ramsay Street, Haberfield, (02) 9798 8299
The Pizza Box
Located inside the Italian food mecca that is Salt Meats Cheese, The Pizza Box is the only pizza joint in Sydney where you can eat a pizza, then buy all the ingredients to recreate the pizza you just ate at home.
Steer your attention towards the "caramelised" pizza – a base with tomato, cheese and caramelised Spanish onions which comes out of the oven and is topped with fennel salami. It's a pizza on the verge of cult status.
The Pizza Box, inside Salt Meats Cheese, 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria, (02) 9690 2406
Happy as Larry Pizza Truck
One of Sydney's best pizzas is made on a truck. Let that sink in for a bit. A long-term labour of love project for three mates, two of whom were once chefs at the great Gigi Pizzeria in Newtown, Happy as Larry was almost a restaurant in Darlinghurst before the team decided to grow wheels instead. The truck itself is a marvel, a heavy hauler decked out with an enormous woodfired oven while still allowing up to six staff to move around inside.
The menu features the Napoletana classics (the crew is applying for VPN certification from Napoli, which requires a margherita, a marinara and a tomato-free pizza bianca to be on offer) and a few fun ones, including a lasagna pizza, topped with beef ragu, fior di latte, ricotta, parmesan and basil. It's one of the few pizza joints where everybody leaves room for dessert – a calzone filled with nutella and served with ice-cream.
Find out where Happy as Larry will be next by following them on Instagram: @happyaslarrysydney
Beware a pizzeria with the word "gourmet" on its menu, which is usually followed by the presence of a tandoori chicken pizza on the menu or worst of all, a "Lebanese" pizza with dollops of hummus and tabouli. That last "avoid at all costs" pizza is particularly depressing as the traditional Lebanese take on pizza is fantastic.
Manoush come thin and crisp, topped with a mix of olive oil and za'atar, a spice mix made up of equal parts oregano, marjoram, thyme and sesame seeds. Squirt a little lemon on top and get stuck in, or wrap the pizza around fresh tomato, olives, onion and mint. Manoush also comes topped with lamb mince, cheese and sujuk, a spicy sausage. Like pizza, every manoush spot does things a little differently – although every single one of them is open for breakfast. Get the best manoush at Afran Lebnan Bakery in Granville, Charlie's Pizzeria and Bakery in Canterbury, Hilltop Oven in Merrylands or Manoosh in Enmore.
Afran Lebnan Bakery, 29 Good Street, Granville, (02) 9760 2099
Charlie's Pizzeria and Bakery, 99 Canterbury Road, Canterbury, (02) 9789 1600
Hilltop Oven, 53 Coleman Street, Merrylands, (02) 9633 2913
Manoosh Pizzeria, 170 Enmore Road, Enmore, (02) 9550 6606
By the slice
There's not much of a slice culture here. We're not like New York. We like things big and round, but if you'd prefer to do things one triangle at a time, pizza by the slice does exist in Sydney, albeit in a slightly drunker state.
Frankie's Pizza offers live music and rock'n'roll until 3am, alongside $6 slices of Italy via New York pizza all night. If those slices don't satisfy, you'll have to venture outside and find a kebab joint, Sydney's biggest purveyors of slice culture. It's pretty far from authentic but it can hit the spot, and in a post-lockout Sydney, these joints are slowly becoming more lively than the nightclubs.
For the best take on kebab joint pizza, head to New Star Kebabs in Auburn, where they top huge discs of Turkish bread pizza with enough shawarma meat to kill off a week's worth of hangovers.
Frankie's Pizza by the Slice, 50 Hunter Street, Sydney
New Star Kebabs, 15 Auburn Road, Auburn, (02) 9643 8433
Good Food Guide's best pizza picks
Cipro Pizza al Taglio
In Alexandria, the best slice is Roman style - rectangular, crunchy and covered with an ever-changing menu of awesome toppings. Potato, leek and speck? Unreal. Prosciutto, mascarpone and grilled broccoli? Get two slices! Everything that comes out of Cipro's woodfired oven is fantastic, but be sure not to overlook their deep fryer - responsible for cooking arancini that are as perfectly crunchy as they are cheese-filled, and golden pucks of salted cod.
9/21 Fountain Street, Alexandria, (02) 9698 4183
It started in a cannery and ends with a whole lot of char, smoke and puff. The big breezy balcony has really captured Sydney, that, and the salomino: a tomato-less pizza layered with soft clouds of ricotta, thin slices of salami (cut lengthways, interestingly enough) and bound with a few blobs of buffalo mozzarella. Da Mario's definitely a destination pizza joint in-and-of-itself.
36 Morley Avenue, Rosebery, (02) 9669 2242
Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta
Maurice Terzini's white-washed trattoria is a place where local families gather (and, egads, actually converse) over big plates of malloreddus pasta with fatty, well-seasoned sausage ragu and smaller plates of juicy lamb skewers doused in a downpour of lemon. Families make way later in the evening for Bondi's tipsy and glitzy to down puffy-crusted, chewy-based diavoletta pizza bedazzled with hot discs of salami.
75-79 Hall Street (enter via O'Brien Street), Bondi, (02) 8090 6969
It's dark in here. So dark the waiters carry mushroom-shaped torches to guide diners to lamp-lit tables. It's moody and romantic and a little glam. Emerging from the gloom is a platter of house-cured meats, among them wafer-thin slices of wagyu beef and pork. But this is no place for the paleo diet. The aged dough on the roasted cauliflower and truffled pecorino pizza is firm and crisp, and and well-matched by a ruby-red schiavo from northern Italy. Bueno.
Level 2, The Strand Arcade, 193 Pitt Street, Sydney, (02) 9223 1674
"Yes, of course it is woodfired," says the Italian waitress of the beast-like oven dominating the red-tiled interior of Lucio Pizzeria. Flames burnish the pizzaiolo's✓ cheeks as he shoves white discs of dough into the 450 degree furnace. Bubbling, char-flecked pizza emerge, all of them made according to chef Lucio de Falco's passion for Vera Neapolitan Pizze. The crust is leavened with the sort of air pockets that only come from 24-hour proving, the base is chewy, the toppings are traditional and the mozzarella is made from buffalo milk and flown in from Italy.
248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, (02) 9380 5996
"Less is more" is the byline as a hot stone Amalfi oven embraces and crisps top quality thin rounds of soft dough and toppings assembled in careful combination. Pizza is all about the dough, and here it gets the full 48-hour treatment. The bianche (no tomato) experience might comprise "da Gigino" rustica, where thinly sliced potato and cheese meets garlic, rosemary and sea salt. Other dishes exist, even pasta, but stick to the pizza with Italian vino and grappa, and you'll be singing Senza Una Donna by evening's end.
261 Bronte Road, Waverley, (02) 9090 2089
Tappo Osteria is a neighbourhood restaurant with its sights set on high things. Run in a typically warm - if meanderingly attentive - way the long, modern room is anchored by a pizza oven and a steady flow of locals. The Zuzza family are no strangers to delivering fail-safe Italian fare, while daily specials lend energy to familiar stalwarts. Woodfired pizza is the go-to – a margherita is charred, bubbled and perfectly unfussy.
Shop 1, 2-14 Bunn Street, Pyrmont, (02) 9552 1509
Staff sing, clap, yell "Ciao bella" and enthusiastically slosh Italian red wine in glasses, channeling Naples as much in their attitude and service as in their food. The authenticity, however, is most evident in their thin, light, doughy pizza that has been blasted in a 485-degree domed woodfired oven for 90 seconds, scorching the base and adding enough heat so the fior di latte mozzarella on, say, the quattro salami pizza – a delightful mix of cured pork in all its glory, San Marzano tomato and basil – transforms into triumphant wobbly strings.
141 Longueville Road, Lane Cove, (02) 9428 3297