You don’t need to travel into the city or venture over to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs for a seriously authentic Italian experience. One of Sydney’s Best Italian restaurants, the Italian Bar Pizza, is nestled in the heart of Suburbia in Willoughby on the North Shore.
So really, what is it that makes us feel we qualify for an illustrious title like “Sydney’s Best Italian”? Here are just a few reasons.
Our Chef and his cuisine
Ivano La Placa our head chef is originally from a small town about fifty kilometres South of Naples. He first worked in his family restaurant when he was twelve years old, helping his father make the dough for the pizza. And helping his mamma make the pasta. From a very young age Ivano was deeply entrenched in restaurant life – surrounded and immersed in the culture of Southern Italian cooking.
Southern Italian food is beautiful in its’ simplicity. It captures the very spirit of Italian cuisine- that is to take just a few ingredients of the highest quality and freshness, and to combine them with minimum fuss to let them speak for themselves.
This style is a far cry from the Michelin star restaurants predominantly populating Italy’s north – the Massimo Bottura style complexity; dishes overladen with truffle or other exotic ingredients (not that there is anything wrong with that). Southern Italians are simpler. For example their pasta does not incorporate egg like the Northerners, simply made with flour water and good sea salt; and they steer away from sauces like béchamel, or heavier cream type dishes.
Ivano’s dishes lean on the rustic side. In particular his style of pizza is unique also. It isn’t Neapolitan style with the big puffy edges. It also isn’t completely thin and crispy as the Romans do it. Rather, he has evolved something somewhere in between and also more generously topped.
Our fantastico front of house team
Enough of the fantastic food. Let’s talk about the service. It’s no secret that our beautiful little suburban gem is completely devoid of pretension. We have a warm hearted bunch of Italians just waiting to show you an evening of good times and memories.
Our wonderful leader Kathleen is certifiably the epitome of hospitality. Back in Sicily she works with her family to run a Pensione, which is very similar to a bed and breakfast. It is one of the most highly sought after hotels modation for tourists in the area. And that is because of the beautiful service Kathleen and her family provide to their guests.
Kathleen has brought that same Italian warmth to our little restaurant and trains all of her team to be the same. Serena is her right hand lieutenant and likes to give the same sincere service
We don’t call our guests sir and madam. There are no white table cloths, just a focus on ensuring all of our guests are content, well fed and well looked after. We like to go the extra mile especially if you are here for a special occasion! There is always a recognition, a cheeky glass of something from us to help you celebrate or maybe a little slice of cake with a candle to make you feel special on your birthday.
Kathleen, Serena and the team are particularly good with the little family members. We all know how to keep them happy while mum and dad enjoy their hard earned pizza.
Our buzzing ambiance
Well we aren’t quite the red sauce joint with the chequered table cloths and the old chianti ruffino bottle with a candle, but we are a more modern version of that.
We have lots of plush comfortable banquettes you can sink into after a hard day. There’s a bar area if you just feel like relaxing with a glass. Or why not go alfresco style on our terrace on a warm Spring evening and watch life in Willoughby go by?
Our kitchen is all open so you can absorb the action of our pizzaioli hard at work slinging pies and timber into our roaring wood fired oven. With guests and staff alike chattering away, there is a buzz and energy which make you feel like you’re part of a big happy family. In fact we are often so busy with big family gatherings you may well be seated right next to a big happy family and could even end up sharing in the conversation and a slice of their pizza!
Our Italian craft beer and organic wine
Well you didn’t come out to dinner to drink VB! In fact we didn’t even think to stock Peroni because there are so many other interesting Italian beers from small crafty Italian producers. They change regularly and right now we are proud to be serving four interesting beers from Italy’s Birra Baladin. One taste of Baladin beers and you will never go back to drinking the regular suds.
We also have a small but thoughtful wine list. There are no blockbuster tre- bicchieri wine winners of the Gambero Rosso. We have chosen Australian made and predominately organic wines from the little guys. Why? Because we simply prefer to support smaller producers. We also like to have wines that are good value because often you just want to have a glass of something good that doesn’t break the bank.
So dear reader, hopefully you can see that Sydney’s best Italian doesn’t need to be the most expensive or the fanciest restaurant. It just needs to have a healthy measure of personality, authenticity, and rustic Italian charm.