Rosso Antico Pizza Bar

Terry Durack
The Napoli pizza has san marzano tomatoes, fior de latte, anchovy, olives and oregano.
The Napoli pizza has san marzano tomatoes, fior de latte, anchovy, olives and oregano. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

52-60 Enmore Rd Newtown, NSW 2042

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Opening hours Daily 6-11pm
Features Licensed, Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8065 4224

Pe' fa' e cose bone ce vo' tiemp'. Almost everyone who comes to Riccardo Tedesco's newly arrived, permanently packed, bare-bones Newtown pizzeria asks what the words scrawled on the wall by the pizza oven mean. "All good things take time," he says, explaining it's in the dialect of his family's home town of Cassino, an hour north of Naples. "Then how come my pizza came so quickly?" they want to know.

With the 100 per cent wood-fired oven running between 450 and 480 degrees, the hand-stretched pizza dough at Rosso Antico cooks in 90 seconds flat. This is the sort of fast food that can only come from slow food, because the magic only happens only when the dough is given enough time (36 hours) to prove.

It's the same with this overnight success, which has been years in the making. Tedesco ran Stella in Collaroy, while his mother Gina was in the kitchen of many a stalwart Sydney Italian before retiring in 1990. But as the world is learning, retirement is a concept that exists only in superannuation fund reports, so she's back in the kitchen, making everything from the pasta and gnocchi to the slow-cooked ragu.

Pared-back pizza: Rosso Antico is intent on doing its own thing, and doing it well.
Pared-back pizza: Rosso Antico is intent on doing its own thing, and doing it well. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

The bare-bricked, white-tiled  space hums with speed and energy, and the menu is pared back to antipasti, pasta and pizza, with no meat or fish mains. Buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto ($16) makes a clean, fresh starter; the cheese thankfully not too cold. Fettuccine ragu ($19) is well-fused and made with the traditional hand-chopped veal and pork rather than mince, although it's quite heavy on tomato. No bread is offered with the prosciutto, and no cheese with the pasta. Like I said, bare bones.

The big pizza order is not the good-looking Margherita or Napoli but the less handsome Tartufo ($21), plonked at the table on a giant can of Strianese san marzano tomatoes. Clumps of Italian pork sausage and chunks of preserved porcini mushroom are strewn over melting fior di latte cheese from local producers Vannella, touched up with bits of finely minced preserved black truffle. It's a good, satisfying, trans-seasonal, street-wise pizza, the crust puffy and blistered, the heart not too wet.

The wine list, too, is pared -back, with prices peaking at $32 for what must be Sydney's cheapest pinot noir. An earthy, almost muscular wine from the Yarra Valley's Stefani Estate, it's served slightly too warm for its own good. Be warned, the drinks service is slow, and floor staff are run off their feet. Like taxis, they require hailing if you want to get anywhere.

Italian celebration: The house-made pastiera.
Italian celebration: The house-made pastiera. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

If you're up for pud, then the house-made pastiera ($9), Southern Italy's most famous cake, is a sweet and soft celebration of ricotta, orange and cinnamon; the imploded, well-cooked grains of wheat giving it a texture like no other.

The sands are shifting on planet pizza lately, as Newtown's Gigi goes meat-free and plant-based, the original Pizza Mario cedes to Da Mario in Zetland, and the wood-fired pizza maestri of Via Napoli, Da Orazio and Lucio expand their horizons.

Rosso Antico is a good fit for Enmore Road; intent on doing its own thing, and doing it well, with a strong voice, a simple menu, and honest prices. The proof: two girls at the next table share a bright, fresh-looking Napoli pizza and a carafe of the Sangiovese house red for a total bill of $33 for two. But then they're up and out the door, rolled yoga mats under their arms. Haven't they heard? Pe' fa' e cose bone ce vo' tiemp'.

THE LOW-DOWN
Best bit: Family-run, complete with mum.
Worst bit: Service is more reactive than proactive.
Go-to pizza: Napoli pizza with san marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, anchovy, olives, garlic and oregano $18.

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system

http://rossoanticopizzabar.com.au/