245 Australia St Newtown, NSW 2042
|Opening hours||Wed-Mon, 5pm-late (they typically sell-out by 9pm)|
Mitchell Westwood was 14 when made his first professional pizza. Sure, he doesn't remember what he cooked ("It had a lot of barbecue sauce" is the only detail he can verify) and it wasn't a masterpiece, but it was a start.
By 18, he was co-owner of Tony's Pizza and Pasta in Jannali, where his career began.
By 21, and many Hawaiian and super supreme pizza sales later, he was bored. "You start to get hungry, you want to do something more than conveyor-belt pizza," he says.
So he knocked on the door of Queen Margherita of Savoy, a Cronulla pizzeria recognised by Italy's Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, which upholds Naples' traditional style of making dough and toppings.
Westwood spent 18 months mastering pizza that spent 60-90 seconds in a high-blast oven, yet came out soft, chewy and easy to fold. He then joined acclaimed Newtown pizzeria Bella Brutta, as its first pizzaiolo, and worked the oven at Bondi's Ciccia Bella, before launching Westwood Pizza in Newtown.
It quietly opened before Christmas, a tiny joint without a sign, yet was soon commanding three-hour waits for pizza. Partly, it's because the wood-fired oven fits three pizzas at most, but it's also because its menu is exceptionally good.
Additional chefs Jack Owe-Young and Gianluigi Di Sarno (both from Bella Brutta) have reduced wait times, but turn up at 5.40pm on a busy weeknight and it could be an hour until your order's ready. Yet it's truly worth your time.
His bases feature single-heritage emmer wheat, an ancient grain grown in Gunnedah, NSW, and are fermented for three days, with a touch of sourdough. "I've been using Italian flour my whole life," Westwood says. "It's really liberating to use something that comes from Australia."
The result: an astonishing lightness. Eating Westwood's pizza is like a time-lapse wonder: you can clear a whole box in record speed, yet swear you're only mid-bite into your first slice. Westwood is also a master at layering maximum flavours on each base, but with the light-handed touch of a space-saving minimalist.
The stunning garlic-honey pizza is built on a foundation of confit garlic oil, then a drizzling of fermented-garlic honey, a creamy topping of fior di latte cheese and a showering of sheep's milk pecorino on top.
It's a novel combination I've never seen in Australia before – the closest I've come to it is in Japan, where you're given a pitcher to pour honey over quattro formaggi (four-cheese) pizza.
At Westwood Pizza, the sweet-savoury complexity works: there are blockbuster amounts of rich flavours in each bite, without the need for piled-high ingredients.
This is also true of the chef's potato and smoked eel pizza, which is brightened with a squeeze of lemon and a juicy heirloom tomato topping, which is hit with marjoram, buffalo mozzarella and plenty of cracked pepper.
Every element of the pizzas – from the Rodriguez Bros spicy salami to the native ironbark that powers the oven – is impressively local. Westwood no longer makes conveyor-belt pizza with barbecue sauce and is much closer to creating masterpieces. This might be one of the best pizzerias in town.
Main attraction: Brilliant and inspired wood-fired pizzas made with hyper-local ingredients on incredibly light bases. There are inventive salads, too, featuring wood-fired grapes with rocket and Pecorino cheese, or chopped nectarines with mozzarella and basil oil.
Must-try dish: The blistered garlic-honey pizza, flavoured with the honey-preserved cloves that ferment for months in jars placed on the counter, and oozing with two types of melted cheese.
Insta-worthy dish: The potato and smoked eel pizza: the potatoes are gently poached in a rich herb and vegetable stock, served on a white sauce made with Nik Hill's Smoke Trap Eels from the Hawkesbury and garnished with marinaded rosemary that crisps up in the wood-fired oven.
Drinks: From $2.50 for spring water to $5 bottles of San Pellegrino.