Via Napoli

Busy, even boisterous: The second Via Napoli has phenomenal pizza.
Busy, even boisterous: The second Via Napoli has phenomenal pizza. Photo: Wolter Peeters

68 Gladesville Road Hunters Hill, New South Wales 2110

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Opening hours Tues-Thurs, 5-10pm, Fri-Sun, noon-3pm & 5-10pm
Features Accepts bookings, Gluten-free options
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9428 3297

"Excessive shouting and unwanted noise will not be tolerated." We can't decide if the sign at this second branch of what many declare Sydney's best pizzeria is a joke or whether our definition of noise is simply different to that of Luigi Esposito and his boisterous team.

We've booked for an early dinner - in at 5, out by 6.30 - and the place fills fast (it's one big room here, in contrast to the nooks-and-crannies, mostly outdoors Lane Cove restaurant). The volume rises quickly even though punters are muted by mouthfuls of Napoli's culinary gift to the world (pizza!). There are heads-up hoots and cheers as wooden boards carrying two-metre-long pizzas are ferried from kitchen to table, and raucous singalongs of "tanti auguri a te!" for those celebrating birthdays.

Plastered on the back wall is a blown-up black-and-white picture of an 11-year-old Esposito. He's with his nonna making pizze fritte - a Neapolitan street food of deep-fried pizza - and is easily recognisable despite an unimpressed expression. It's not a look you see on the face of the animated pizzaiolo these days - he's thrilled with Via Napoli's success and his growing family (baby No. 2 arrived not long before restaurant No. 2 opened).

Via Napoli harks back to Neapolitan street food.
Via Napoli harks back to Neapolitan street food. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The pizze fritte is still in the repertoire and on our visit features as part of the surprise package that is the Via Napoli: "Luigi's fantasy pizza", a mishmash of whatever the pizzaiolo dreams up - the creation changing not just daily but from pizza to pizza. The pizze fritta is a puffed-up pocket filled with buffalo ricotta, fior di latte and salami, nicely peppery and a little tough. Good, but we still prefer the simple, flat, wood-fired margherita pizza - thin, saucy and oh-so-satisfying. We try a range of starters (eggplant involtini with Parma prosciutto, ricotta and pine nuts is the highlight) and pasta, too - all are fine, but to be honest, next time we won't be distracted from the main event: pizza. It's phenomenal.

The volume drops as we walk out the door. We realise the "no noise" sign is more an exit instruction. So if the joyous din inside seems hard to shake - save one last silencing slice of pizza, to go … for the neighbours' sake.

DO … ring ahead to book or expect a wait
DON'T … come here for a quiet date night
DISH … the Via Napoli: Luigi Esposito's ''fantasy pizza''
VIBE … is high-decibel pizza paradise

Note: The licensing for the restaurant is still pending, but in the meantime they do accept BYO, with a corkage charge of $7 a bottle