The thing about pizza is that it’s always there for you. It’s comfortable, easy-going, familiar. No matter what else you’ve got going on, you can always rest your weary head on a steaming hot slice of pizza and munch your troubles away.
The other thing about pizza is that everyone is an expert. Friendships have no doubt ended in arguments over how much crunch a Siciliana base ought to have. Well, we've spoken to the real experts and come up with the definitive list of where to get your doughy fix in this sparkly harbour city.
Here's where to get the best pizza in Sydney.
Pizzeria Da Alfredo
These guys are purists. "You’re on the other side of the world but it’s just like home", restaurant manager Nino Di Donato quips to us as we sit down. They take supreme pride in recreating the Neapolitan food of their youth; "think of it like a time capsule".
Pizzeria Da Alfredo is the vision of Alfredo Repole who came to Sydney from Naples three years ago to start a pizza shop. He had a two and a half tonne oven shipped over in one piece and can still be found every night behind the counter spinning dough into glistening artworks. "I don't have a pizza chef to do pizza for me. I need the pizza to be authentic," he says.
"He’s been a pizza maker since he was a kid. He’s got three brothers and they’re all pizza makers," Di Donato tells us as we tuck into a smokey, gooey Margherita. He goes on to say that they refuse to expand until they can find chefs who can work with a dough as light and fluffy as their signature one. They really have a dedication to the craft and a refusal to compromise on anything but the best. Pizzeria Da Alfredo is a must for any Sydney-based pizza pilgrim.
This local legend takes the crown for the suburb. Situated street side, smack-bang in the bustle of Redfern Street lies La Cappola, a little trattoria dominated by the roaring wood-fired oven where owner Stefano Scopelliti has been impressing locals with his pizzas (and moustache) for years.
With three decades of experience under his belt and five other restaurants in Sydney, Scopelliti brings an expert Sicilian flair to the pizza game. This means a crisper base than the dripping Neapolitan, but not thick and chewy like the Romana. He’s not one to stand still either, as the dishes here tend to bend the rules a little bit away from the traditionalist lean of many on this list. Check out the "Melanzana" with fried eggplant and Parmigiano, or the "Scopello" that’s loaded with meats, herbs, and spices. There's also the "Zafferia" with a knot of burrata on top. Damn good stuff.
Surry Hills and Bronte
You can hardly move down Crown Street without being bewitched by the smell of some seriously tasty pizza, but Vacanza has managed to hold its own against stiff competition for seven years now and shows no signs of slowing down.
Originating in Bronte in 2010 Vacanza, or "holiday", was founded by Nick Gilbert, a self-confessed pizza fanatic who learned the art of the pie in Southern Italy and brought his well-honed skills back home.
They serve up just eight pizzas—six red and two white—fully committing themselves to the Italian belief that when it comes to toppings, less is more. That being said, they do offer a mozzarella bar where you can order a degustation of imported Italian cheese which is, you know, a lot but not in a bad way. A favourite around these parts is the Diavola but for the traditionalists, the Margherita is what they do best.
Darlington and Mascot
Now, great pizza doesn’t have to be traditional. We’ve had downright delicious pizza that the Napoli Pizza Association (yes that’s a real thing) wouldn’t even look at. Angry Tony’s is just that pizza; sloppy down-and-dirty goodness that is the perfect accompaniment to any boozy evening. That being said, they take quality seriously here. Manager Daniel says the "freshness of the ingredients is key" and all of their produce is locally sourced.
It was thought up three years ago by Darlinghurst's Burdekin Hotel owner Adam Celestino and friends Scott Davis and Tony Francis (whose face now adorns the boxes). They mainly push takeaway—and will even sling you a six-pack of Young Henrys or VB if you get in before 11pm—but the pizza always arrives crisp and hot enough to burn your mouth on.
Go for the signature Angry Tony which is a total firework of flavour, or our personal favourite, the Big Cheese which comes with so much cheese you’re going to turn to your friends and say "wow, that’s a lot of cheese". The garlic bread is also just another pizza with a cheese base and lots of garlic. Get it. Eat it. Love it.
Staying with the wild cards for a minute, we have another Surry Hills heavyweight that hasn’t been around quite as long as some, but still packs a punch when it comes to the crunch. The pizza at Al Taglio is beautifully crisp with a playful take on toppings, flavour and style.
Head Chef and owner Enrico Sgarbossa learned his trade at the famous Compagnia Della Pizza restaurant on the east coast of Italy. He has spent years plying his pizza skills, winning 11th place at the Pizza World Championships in 2015 and 3rd place in the Giro Pizza d’Europa in 2016. Having worked in Italian restaurants all over Sydney, he’s now the guy that others go to learn how to make pizza.
In spite of this, Enrico is not a traditionalist. He uses type 1 flour, where most others use type 00, giving the pizza a fuller, rougher texture. He tops his bases with things like basil paste, stir-fried leeks, Japanese mayo, and is even a whizz with the vegan cheese too. We probably don’t need to tell you that the results are excellent but you should get involved and discover this for yourself.
A little bit further afield, we find one of the best pizzas in the entire world, if the 2017 Pizza World Championships Australia are anything to go by (and we’re here to tell you that they are). This accolade isn’t a fluke either. Verace Pizzeria owner Stefano Cirene has put together a world-class team of chefs (and pizza acrobats) from Italy who add more trinkets to the trophy cabinet each year and, look, the proof is in the pizza.
They’re not ones to cling to tradition either, offering up specials with eggplant-cream bases or stacked with smoked salmon. The menu is extensive too, with seven white pizzas and 11 red. The all-important Margherita SGT is the main attraction but they also offer an excellent potato pizza and a prosciutto, which is a firm local fave. And if you're not local, you won’t regret the trek once you taste what they're serving up.
At the point where King Street really starts to get into its stride sits Bella Brutta (or "beautiful ugly"). This is an Aussie take on classic Italian cuisine and run by a crew of seasoned hospitality pros. It can be pricey and a little noisy, and you'll probably have to wait for a table, but it’s worth forking out for pie this good.
The breezy open entrance is perfect for sipping an Aperol spritz and watching the world go by while perched on the white marble benches. Deeper inside this bare industrial strip you’ll find longer benches and smaller dimly lit tables that run out into a lovely courtyard perfect for catching the last of the summer sun.
Now, the main attraction is, of course, the pizza. It's made right in front of you by chef Luke Powell and comes out thin, crispy, and pocked with splotches of bubbling char. The mortadella and the peperoni are certainly crowd-pleasers but the big draw here is the clam pizza. Yes, with clams. It’s an off the wall choice but it really does the trick and needs to be tasted to be believed.
Society Pizzeria Di Catania
To be honest, we were a little hesitant to include Society on the list simply because they used to do a $20 all-you-can-eat deal on Mondays and Tuesdays and it broke our hearts a little when they stopped. Still, you can’t grudge the Faro family who runs the joint because they really know their way around a pizza.
Sicilian brother and sister team Jonathan Faro and Vittoria Wynne can usually be found cracking jokes with the regulars, advising newcomers on what to eat, and of course, serving pizza. The room here is smallish with a large amount of the space being taken up by the massive wood-fired oven in the corner so it can be a struggle to get a table (even though it is situated far from the madding crowds of Bondi Beach).
Expect Sicilian-style pizza with a seafood emphasis like the prawn and chili Gamberi. They have a sizable menu too, which gives you the perfect excuse to keep coming back.
Veteran restaurateur Ricardo Tedesco puts pizza at the heart of everything—literally. He took the doors off of the empty concrete space on Enmore Road to fit a three and a half tonne Italian-built pizza oven in, around which everything else in his Inner West restaurant Rosso Antico is built.
Pizza is in his blood. His 73-year-old mother owned restaurants around Sydney and still pumps out five kilos of gnocchi each morning by hand for Tedesco. "I grew up in the heydey of [Italian] restaurants in Sydney", he says. "When everything was done properly. Then I saw a lot of people starting places that steered away from what I consider traditional. When I opened, I wanted to strip it all back and make it as traditional as possible."
And he does. All ingredients except the perishables come from Italy. For the fresh stuff, Tedesco goes down to a store in Stanmore every morning and handpicks what he wants; "It costs a little more but it's worth it".
And while Tedesco is a fan of tradition, evolution is central to his philosophy. "You always keep the tradition," he says, but "just because someone told you once upon a time how to do it doesn’t mean it should always be done that way". His dough changes year on year as he absorbs and develops new techniques from his frequent trips to the motherland and from the suggestions of his staff who he encourages to experiment.
The passion is evident. He won't let an Uber driver leave unless the pizza is as hot and fresh as possible. That’s because, as Tedesco tells us, "we don’t sell pizza, we sell emotions."
Pizza Madre is a little 35-seater from the guys behind that other vegan-leaning Marrickville institution, Two Chaps. Here they’ve constructed a pizza joint based on the same principles of using seasonally available local ingredients, small-batch Aussie drinks producers, and sustainability. Nothing here has meat on it but let us say, you really won't miss it when you take a bite.
That’s not all they do differently, either. All the rules are chucked out when it comes to pizza dough, which is made with a blend of three kinds of flour and undergoes a three-day fermentation process with native yeasts for a subtle sourdough tartness. It’s a wild ride so make sure you’re ready.
Everything is kept very simple with a really focused menu and tiny selection of drinks. All of the decisions up until you sit down have already been made by the experts. All you need to do is select from the best of the best and in this part of town you can do no better than Madre’s.
Frankie’s Pizza is what a pizza place would look like in a punk version of Blade Runner but with more pinball and less murderous androids. This is where you come when you don't want the night to end and are convinced that if you get a couple of slices of pie in you, you could easily go a few more rounds.
To be honest, Frankie’s is less about the pizza and more about the booze—but because late nights and pizza go together like beer and rock n roll, Frankie's gets a spot on this list. Founded by the guys behind the world-class speakeasies of Baxter’s and Shady Pines, this Sydney icon is one of the original late-night spots from the pre-lock-out era that managed to pull through those dark days, and that should tell you all you need to know about the place.
You won’t impress many traditionalists here as these guys will throw ham, pineapple, or whatever on top of their chewy base and you’ll love it. When you’re finished with your Italian sausage pizza with the smokey truffle sauce (so, so good) or your Rustica with charred eggplant and goats cheese, see if you can find your way to the secret back bar. Once there, you’ll find one of the most extensive whiskey selections in the city.
It ain’t pretty, but no matter who you are or what state you’re in, Frankie’s will welcome you with open arms and shove a $6 slice of greasy deliciousness right in your face. Bellissimo.
And while you're here, check out our guide to the ultimate Marrickville brewery crawl.
Image credit: Pizzeria Da Alfredo, Pizzeria Da Alfredo, La Coppola, Alessandro Squadrito, Angry Tony's, Claudia Schmueli, Society Pizzeria, Caitlin Hicks,