We walked into Rosso Antico Pizza Bar in Newtown with plenty of in-built enthusiasm – when Jamie Nimmo of The Stinking Bishops gives a place a good scorecard, you want to fast-track your visit there. (Not only did he rate it well – “Finally, some good pizza on Enmore Road” – but ended up staging three visits in one week.)
Will already decided it was his favourite joint when we sat down for the first time (which was pretty pre-emptive!), but once our order arrived – hot off the paddle from the wood-fired oven – his premonition proved true.
I like how the pizzas here have ballooning crusts that are marked by the odd ‘birthmark’ of charred blisters; and when you pick up each slice, it has a soft flop from the gentle load of juicy toppings it’s conveying (instead of, say, a suspicious surfboard toughness). I also love how this pizzeria pushes all its flavours to melting point – with gloriously punchy, savoury and sweet impressions revealed with every bite, whether it’s the Norma ($19), with its caramelly smoulder of eggplant slices, San Marzano tomatoes, oozy pool of fior di latte and sprinkles of salted ricotta, or Will’s pick, the Diavola ($20), its light chilli tingle bolstered by spicy salami and the rich and salty flourishes of capsicum, olives, tomato and cheese. On our second visit – with help from friends Chloe and Caro – we re-ordered our faves, and also made a demolition job of the Capricciosa ($21), with its layers of double-smoked ham, artichokes and mushroom (which was “super freakin’ delicious”, said Will), and the Ciociara ($20), all laced with ribbons of grilled zucchini, eggplant and capsicum; with these fresh-roasted flavours, it essentially tastes like the start of spring.
And of the salads, I really like the pan-tossed Cianfotta ($15), which is a slick and rustic way to enjoy your vegies (even if they sound like an oddball mix at first glance – celery and potato might seem like suspicious partners for olive and tomato, but it makes a lot of delicious sense once you try it).
Rosso Antico Pizza Bar’s chefs were trained in Italy and the owner, Riccardo Tedesco, named the pizzeria after that particular aperitif for personal reasons. “The name reminds me of my childhood, there was always a bottle in the cabinet for when family and friends came over.”
That close connection translates in the restaurant, where it seems like different generations work across the kitchen and floor. And the stripped-back feel (which includes a decorative brick wall that you could argue is either “charmingly rustic” or “is-this-actually-finished? chic”) adds to the casual, warm atmosphere. There’s also the odd pizza paddle on display and a sign that I’ve been told means “good things take time”.
And yet, Rosso Antico Pizza Bar has just passed its two-week mark and already has made an impact. Yes, it’s a neighbourhood restaurant, but it’s a really good one. Like Jamie Nimmo, we’ve already planned our third visit for this week.