68 Gladesville Road Hunters Hill, New South Wales 2110
|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).
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