With Sydney’s rents continuing to skyrocket, it was a relief to discover a surprisingly classy way to eat out for just twenty bucks. What’s more, it was particularly exciting to find out you can do so right in the heart of Surry Hills at Pizza Autentico.
The sexy concrete slab communal dining table has me harking back to Uchi Lounge days during the impressive sixteen-year tenure it had in this space. Though the table is where the similarity ends – the space has been taken somewhere thoroughly Italian using a fresh lick of white paint, a splashy red logo and 'the boot' of Italy inked onto the wall. The rest of the room keeps things stylishly monochromatic with a collection of framed black and white photography.
We’re quickly seated around the large communal table and given the lowdown on how things work. Our twenty buck spend gives us access to all the pizza and pasta we can eat, controlled by a clever adaptation of the Brazilian churrasco traffic light system - further improved by patriotic layer of white.
Early diners are also rewarded with a two-hour Happy Hour (5-7pm) where you can score your Birra Moretti (usually $8.50) or Fantinell Prosecco DOC (usually $9) for just five bucks, or kick things off the Italian way with a ten-buck Aperol Spritz (usually $14.50). While I'm down with aperitivo, I'm more a Negroni kind of gal, and Nonna’s Negroni ($16.50), based on Four Pillars Gin, is a smooth and well-presented rendition, complete with a dehydrated blood orange garnish.
The kitchen starts things rolling right away with a steady stream of ultra-thin crust pizza varieties, drawn from an ever-evolving menu of more than thirty types. Each pizza travels 'round the table on a wooden board borne by a friendly member of staff.
A classic Pepperoni wakes up your palate, before it’s pleasured by the utter simplicity of an Italian classic: an oregano-topped Margherita.
With so few toppings - yes, this is the Italian way - and ultra thin bases, there's nowhere to hide on ingredient quality. And I'm pleased to inform you that it's quality all the way, whether you’re consuming the flag on a beautiful Di Marcello topped with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan, or getting carnivorous with Prosciutto e Funghi, boasting ham, mozzarella and thinly sliced mushrooms.
Large, comforting bowls of simple pastas punctuate the pizza onslaught. A simple green Basil & Pine Nut Pesto Linguine is followed by spicy Penne Arrabiata and a classic Spaghetti Bolognaise.
And as you can see, this is one spot where vegetarian diners won’t feel they’re getting a bad deal.
Anyone questing for more flavour can doctor their dinner with on-table condiments that include Parmesan, pepper, chilli oil, basil oil, and chilli flakes.
By now you’re likely fingering your Italian traffic light and wondering if you should call it quits. I advise throwing it on its side to pause while you hold out for highlights, like a super-simple Melanzane that presents nicely-salted eggplant against a wonderfully crisp and cheesy base.
Taking a double hit of sharp gorgonzola – on both the winning Quattro Formaggi Gnocchi and a four-cheese pizza by the same name - sent me off into the night smiling (and plotting my return).
15 Brisbane Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9267 9992