Vibe: 3.5 stars
Design: Chic, earthy natural elements balance out cool industrial surfaces. Hints of authentic Italian trattoria motifs. Natural light abounds in this glass walled display case of a space. Wanna be seen by all and sundry? This is the place for it.
Food: 4 stars
Damage: minimal, $35pp sees you full and happy.
Welcome indeed. If a hearty ‘Buono Sera!’ upon entry to your fave local pizza joint is the welcome you lust after, then the warm hearted chaps of Pizza Mario will be only to keen to give it to you. Once upon a time the cashmere clad of Burton Street’s inappropriately named ‘Republic’ building in Darlo got to call this fab little pizzeria their local, when it was conveniently located at the bottom of their Burton Katon Haliday designed apartment building. Thankfully, for us south of Oxford St (So-Ox), pizzaiolo David Cowdrill and son Marcos, saw fit to pick up sitcks and move a kilometre across the road to The Ivy at St Margaret’s, for the promise of a shiny new restaurant full of marble, more table room and access to a slightly less ‘sparkly’ clientele.
It’s well documented that Pizza Mario is the only pizzeria in the Antipodean to be accredited with the coveted ‘Vera Pizza’ label. Their number, 153, suggests that this accreditation, bestowed by the l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana upon those pizza makers devoted to the authentic application of the Neopolitan method, is a rarity and one to be admired. Having tasted pizzas the world over and experiencing everything from a nori, bacon and Japanese mayo pizza pie (surprisingly moreish), to the thinnest and crispiest of pizzas in Florence and everything in between, I can attest that those crazy Neopolitans know a thing or two about making the best pizza in the world. And the guys at Pizza Mario give it a pretty good crack too.
Apparently, the Neopolitan way dictates you must only use your hands in shaping the dough, pizza must be cooked on the bare floor of a proper wood burning pizza oven, toppings must not conflict with the rules of gastronomy (now those are some rules Id like to see…and then apply to some of the more bizarre molecular gastronomic experiments I’ve had the misfortune to have eaten in recent times), and finally, the most important of all, the pizza must be soft, well cooked and with a high soft crust. Well sign me up and call me Vera, for I can confirm that Pizza Mario is steadfastly applying their mettle to all of those rules.
Pizzas are wonderfully soft, well cooked and with delightful crust. Super thin bases are sparingly adorned with the minimum of ingredients to ensure a powerfully balanced set of flavours is delivered to your mouth with every bite. This is about simplicity of ingredients. No fancy attempts at tricking up what is essentially Mother Nature’s most pure of cuisines. Margherita is simply tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil. Nothing more, nothing less. And delicious! OK, they do give you the option of adding either mushroom, olives or ham but rest assured, the combination of flavours has been researched and confirmed by Head Pizziaola as ‘vera pizza’ worthy. So option away!
Cut into just four large quarters, this is a pizza you fold in half and wrap your chompers around heartily, as gooey mozzarella cheese drips tantalisingly from your chin. Scrummy and super sexy if youre on a date (this is the moment in a rom-com where the 2 protaganists realise they are meant for each other while a suitably jaunty music score swells as a happy montage of handholding, strolling & arcade game playing unfolds). Anyway, I digress.
It’s not just pizza on the menu. Seasonal specials are scratched daily onto the blackboard and should always be considered in your overall menu selection. On our visit, as figs are in season, the normally delish proscuitto and melon starter was updated with the addition of fresh figs. The prosciutto is just as it is in Italy – perfectly aged and sliced to perfection. Melt in your mouth. Scrumdiddilyumptious. Lightly fried calamari is moist, springy, salty and tasty. Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and pinenuts are light and moreish. Salads continue the simplistic use of good produce in the pursuit of supreme flavour. Check out their website if you want to see the full extent of their menu – rest assured, consistency is key to this restaurants success.
Did someone say beer? Look, Im a fan of a lively sangiovese any day of the week, and there are certainly a few nice ones on offer here, but if you’re going to have a proper pizza-night-out, its gotta be beer…and its gotta be Italian. They have Peroni on tap. Nothing crisper and more refreshing on a hot summer’s eve, so do yourself a favour and do the whole pizza-night-out properly. Drink Beer. (no I havent been paid by Peroni to say that)
The atmos here is great. It feels just like the family run trattorias you come across all over Italy. There is love in the room and the joint is more often than not well patroned by real Italians. That’s a good sign in my book. If the real McCoy deign the place worthy of their palates, then there must be something good going on here. Plus, Im a sucker for some lyrical Italian conversation going on in the background while I eat. Every time I’ve eaten here (or taken away) I’ve received the friendly, warm kind of service you hope for in a local restaurant. This place genuinely manages to make you feel like they know you, whether they recognise you or not. Hey, just coz I’m a city girl doesnt mean I don’t crave a little country style familiarity.
Whilst the decor is simple and industrial, Pizza Mario manages to be warm and inviting at the same time. Green and white checkered paper cloths deliver an authentic, easy-going vibe and the friendly wait staff look after you with warmth and efficiency. Pizza Mario is an oasis in the wind swept void that is the strangely barren St Margaret’s piazza. Go there for your next fully, proper pizza-night-out. And drink the Beer. Seriously. Drink it.
The Ivy @ St Margaret’s
417 -421 Bourke St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
P: 02 9332 3633
7 nights from 6pm
take away available