Every suburb has a secret food spot that is only known to a select few – until now. Suburban Secrets uncovers some of the foodie delights hiding in the ‘burbs.
Step through the door of Napoli Pizzeria e Ristorante and you’ll feel like you’re stepping into a traditional, family-run pizzeria in the heart of Naples itself: red and white checked cloth dresses the tables, pictures from a bygone era hang on the walls and bundles of garlic and chilli hang in front of the pizza bar while the hand-built wood oven roars away. “Some people say ‘cook like Nonna’. Here we say ‘cook with Nonna’,” Napoli’s chef and part-owner Daniel Marrone says. Marrone says he maintains an authentic link to Napolitano tradition by testing and developing the menu with his grandmother. He’s an old hand when it comes to Italian cooking, the son of Italian migrants from Altavilla (a town in the region of Campania of which Naples is the capital). He has run pizza bars and restaurants around Adelaide for more than 15 years, but respects the value of that inter-generational expertise. “We try to make it feel like Nonna’s place, you know?” says co-owner Anthony Ciccone. Napoli Pizzeria has been on Henley Beach Road for more than 30 years, and has changed hands a number of times. Ciccone and Marrone’s grandfathers ran the place early on in its existence, and the pair saw fit to bring it back into their families when it came on the market a couple of years ago. “They still come in all the time,” says Ciccone of the old guard. “You walk in and you feel like you’re back in Italy.” And, as they say, the proof is in the pizza. Napoli’s pizza is like nothing else in Adelaide. While the Australian tradition of pizza is essentially to throw everything on top of the dough, Napoli is more refined, focussing on providing balanced flavour with quality ingredients. “The Italians emphasise quality over quantity,” Marrone, who cooks a variety of dishes at the restaurant, says. These include delicious southern Italian style pasta and a delectable Coniglio al Forno consisting of locally sourced rabbit rolled in pancetta on a bed of broccolini and potato. The dough is soft (and not flat and crunchy like the typical Aussie variety) and rises beautifully in Napoli’s wood oven. On the menu one finds a great variety of pizzas, from your traditional Margherita and Capricciosa to favourites from the 1970s. The best are easily the traditional varieties, like the Margherita, which allows the simple and delicious flavours of the sweet San Marzano tomato sauce and creamy Fior di Latte buffalo cheese to sing, or the Altavilla, named after the Marrone family’s hometown, which adds mouth-watering prosciutto and basil to the mix. Pizza is serious business in Naples. After all, the southern Italian city is where this superstar of a food was invented. As such, serious training and certification goes into being recognised as a legitimate Napolitano pizza chef. Napoli Pizzeria is lucky enough to host a fully-qualified Naples-native. Smiling by the big brick oven is the man himself: Ettore Bertonati. Most recently a pizza chef over at Etica in the CBD, Bertonati has been in Adelaide for three years since leaving Italy, and adheres strongly to the essentials of his craft. “I would try to use Australian flour, but you just don’t get the same result,” he says, explaining that many of Napoli’s key ingredients are imported directly from Campania, including the flour, buffalo cheese and even the tomato sauce. These ingredients could be replaced by local ones, but the result would never be the same, with those uniquely Napolitano flavours and textures being lost. “This is a ‘doppio zero’ flour,” says Bertonati, “It is very fine grain made from a blend of flours from around the world.” The dough is left to sit and rise overnight – every night – giving it time to mature and lighten. Most other pizza places will make their dough and use it immediately – not Napoli. Another quirky advantage of letting the yeast work the dough overnight is that it results in dough with far fewer calories than normal. “The Margherita pizza only has 600 calories. You could eat five or six of these a day!” Bertonati says. It’s unclear whether his enthusiasm is a serious recommendation or is in jest. Either way, eating at least one of these pizzas a day would certainly be a gratifying way to live. Napoli Pizzeria e Ristorante 2/127 Henley Beach Road, Mile End 8443 7983 napolipizzeria.com.au Photos: Jonathan van der Knaap